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Children's Health

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Clostridium Infection on the Rise in Hospitalized Kids

Bacterial Infection Increased Nearly 15% Yearly From 1997 to 2006, Study Finds

Explaining Rising Cases of Clostridium Difficile continued...

"Antibiotic exposure used to be thought to be required," he says. "Now, it's considered a risk factor," with not all who become infected taking antibiotics.

In fact, antibiotic use went down during the study period, other research shows.

The database did not include information on whether the children were on antibiotics, Nylund says, so he can't say how much that may have boosted risk.

Another possibility is that a more virulent strain of the bacterium is circulating.

Catching Clostridium Difficile Early

Although some children infected with the bacteria don't have symptoms, in others persistent diarrhea can be a warning, the researchers say.

Researchers studied the infection only in hospitalized children, but it can also occur in other children, they say.

If children have persistent diarrhea - lasting longer than a week -- parents are advised to consult the pediatrician about testing for the infection, Cohen says.

''If your child starts to develop diarrhea or GI upset while in the hospital, make sure you bring it to your physician's attention," Nylund says.

Prevention is best, he tells WebMD. Parents can be sure their hospitalized child's health care providers pay close attention to hand-washing, he says, which can reduce the risk of infection.

Clostridium Rates: Second View

The rising rates of infection are no surprise, says Steven Czinn, MD, professor and chair of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, who reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

"There have been a number of reports over the past few years also suggesting a significant increase in CDI (Clostridium difficile infections) in both hospitalized adult and pediatric populations," he says.

"CD bacterial spores are quite hardy and can survive in the environment for months, allowing the spores to be transferred from one patient to the next by hospital personnel," he says.

The good news, he says, is that doctors and hospitals have become more aware of the risk of the infection. He agrees with the researchers that parents can reduce the risk for their child by being sure all hospital workers wash their hands when entering the hospital room.

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