MRSA outbreaks are becoming an increasingly known risk among the general U.S. population and the healthcare system that cares for them. As the number and severity of outbreaks related to Clostridium difficile (C. diff) bacteria continue occurring with growing frequency, healthcare providers are paying more attention to this emerging risk as well. Among the general population, awareness is also growing about C. diff bacteria that is found in the soil, air, human and animal feces, and on most surfaces. What remains at issue includes:

  • What can we do to limit the occurrences of more widespread infections?
  • What should we expect to see in future U.S. and Canadian large-scale outbreaks?
  • What can healthcare providers and their patients do today and in the future to help control such outbreaks?

For those not familiar with C. diff, these omnipresent bacteria don™t typically cause trouble. But when they grow in abnormally large numbers in the human gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, they can produce toxins that cause severe diarrhea. In more serious cases, life-threatening inflammation of the colon “ and even death “ can occur. C. diff usually becomes a problem only in some individuals who are taking antibiotics or other antimicrobial drugs. This upsets the normal flora in the GI tract, allowing C. diff bacteria to grow and produce toxins. C. diff bacteria also produce spores that can survive on surfaces and floors for years. Such spores are resistant to many disinfectants and antiseptics, including alcohol gels often used for hand sanitizing.

Although C. diff has long been present, its prevalence and virulence have increased markedly. In the United States, there was a 23 percent annual increase in hospitalizations for the years 2000 “ 2006.1 Mortality rates have risen from 5.7 per million to 23.7 per million from 1999 “ 2004.2 Also of concern is the rise in cases of community acquired C. diff infections in otherwise healthy individuals who are not receiving antibiotics. Beyond the United States, hospitals in Canada and Great Britain have experienced even more severe outbreaks. At one hospital in Ontario, 177 of 17,500 patients admitted during an outbreak between May 2006 and December 2007 were diagnosed with C. diff; of those; 62 deaths were linked to

C. diff as a contributing factor.3

For reporters and editors seeking to learn more about C. diff™s emergence as a commonly seen risk, Zurich North America Commercial can provide executives who can participate in interviews or compose bylined articles. Please contact Steve McKay as listed below if you would like to learn more or arrange an interview.

1Increase in adult Clostridium difficile“related hospitalizations and case-fatality rate, United States, 2000“2005, Zilberberg MD, Shorr AF, Kollef MH, Emerg Infect Dis, June 2008

Available from

2Increase in Clostridium difficile-related mortality rates, United States, 1999-2004, Redelings MD, Sorvillo F, Mascola L., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Emerging Infectious Diseases [online] 2007 Sep [cited 2007 Aug 17]

Available from Internet:

3Ministry ignored C. diff warning, Joan Walters, The Hamilton Spectator, May 26, 2008

About Zurich Financial Services

Zurich Financial Services Group (Zurich) is an insurance-based financial services provider with a global network of subsidiaries and offices in North America and Europe as well as in Asia Pacific, Latin America and other markets. Founded in 1872, the Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. It employs approximately 60,000 people serving customers in more than 170 countries. In North America, Zurich ( is a leading commercial property-casualty insurance provider serving the global corporate, large corporate, middle market, specialties and programs sectors.

Media contact:
Steve McKay
(847) 706-2265