Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is costing America dearly, both financially and in terms of lives lost.

The number of CDI discharges in the United States between 2000 and 2009 more than doubled, according to a 2012 statistical brief from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Various studies have shown that the number of deaths attributable to CDI is estimated to be between 14,000 and 20,000. Meanwhile, CDI increases hospital length of stay by 2.8 to 5.5 days.

Elsewhere, a 2012 study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, showed that an analysis of the best available data from 2008 indicated that CDI may have resulted in as much as $4.8 billion in excess care costs to U.S. acute care facilities.

All of these data were highlighted in the introductory section to an important practice recommendation issued jointly in June by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) in collaboration with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the American Hospital Association, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the Joint Commission and others.

The document, "Strategies to Prevent Clostridium difficile Infections in Acute Care Hospitals: 2014 Update", should be a valued resource for all environmental services teams as they continue their front-line efforts to combat CDI.

As we noted in this column in April, despite all the attention given to reducing CDI, the rate of these infections remains staggeringly high. And while CDI rates finally may be coming off their peak, they remain at historically high levels.

This underscores the need for ES leaders to redouble efforts to ensure that all associates are thoroughly educated about proper cleaning protocols in rooms that housed known C. difficile patients, which disinfectants are EPA-registered to kill C. difficile spores and best practices for preventing C. difficile.

Thankfully, the list of tools available to help ES leaders in this area of their responsibilities has been growing in recent months. In addition to the SHEA/IDSA practice recommendations, APIC in 2013 issued its "Guide to Preventing Clostridium difficile Infections."

The EPA in July also published a list of registered antimicrobial products effective against C. difficile spores.

In the September issue of Health Facilities Management, we'll explore in greater detail the essential steps to prevent C. difficile. This report, part of our Surface Safety series sponsored by Clorox Healthcare, includes an interview with Erik R. Dubberke, M.D., MSPH, who co-authored the SHEA/IDSA updated recommendations on preventing C. difficile in acute care settings.

Utilizing tools like these, along with the Association for the Healthcare Environment's "Practice Guidance on Healthcare Environmental Cleaning" can help keep your team on the path to progress in combating what remains one of health care's top challenges to patient safety.

Bob Kehoe is the associate publisher of Health Facilities Management.