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Doctors in Northern Ireland have admitted they are concerned by a 40% rise in the number of elderly patients contracting hospital infections.
New figures show that rates of Clostridium difficile (C difficile) increased in four out of the five health trusts last autumn among patients aged over 65.
The superbug can cause patients to suffer a number of ailments, ranging from diarrhoea to perforation of the intestine.
Around 42 people died during a recent outbreak in the Northern Health Trust area.
Communicable diseases expert Dr Brian Smyth said: “The rise in C. diff diarrhoea (CDAD) is of concern and this rise was not confined to the Northern Trust.
“The next quarter CDAD statistics will be particularly important to see if the underlying reduction in CDAD that was witnessed for most of last year can be resumed.”
The data show there were 297 reports during the three months ending in December, compared with 212 the previous quarter, while a similar rise was seen in GP reports of the bacteria in the community.
In 2007, C difficile contributed to 77 deaths in the province, and health minister Michael McGimpsey recently announced he was making £9m of funding available to tackle hospital bugs.
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