1. The deadly 'new' superbug -- and how to avoid it

    Going to the hospital is supposed to be the beginning of your recovery -- but for millions of us, it's the beginning of a nightmare.

    Close to 2 million Americans get infections in hospitals that they didn't have when they walked in, and close to 100,000 die of them.

    These people are literally killed by dirty rooms and careless care -- and new numbers from the CDC show that one bug in particular is responsible for a shocking percentage of those illnesses and deaths.

    Clostridium difficile, or C-diff for short, caused 336,600 illnesses in 2009 alone, more than double the 139,000 people infected by the bacteria in 2000. And the number of deaths from the bug has skyrocketed, from 2,700 in 2000 to more than 14,000 in 2009.

    People don't get C-diff at home. They don't pick it up in airports. And, no, they don't get it from dirty gas station bathrooms either. Nope. According to the CDC, 94 percent of all C-diff cases are connected to hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities.

    The bug is spread by contact with poop, which shows you the importance of washing your hands. And once it's on someone's hands, the spores can transfer onto walls, counters, doors, bedframes, and more -- and live on those surfaces for months at a time, resisting nearly every cleaner except for bleach.

    Inside the body, it's even stronger -- resistant to most drugs and even thriving after you take an antibiotic, since those meds will wipe out the friendly gut bacteria that can keep invaders like C-diff in check.

    Obviously, that means the best way to avoid C-diff completely is to avoid both hospitals and antibiotics.

    But that's not possible for everyone. Life happens. We get sick. We get hospitalized. And sometimes, even those of us who manage to avoid meds most of the time end up taking an antibiotic.

    And that's why you shouldn't wait to arm yourself -- take action now to protect your gut from everyday bacterial invaders, and you'll also make it better able to withstand the assault of an antibiotic.

    Dr. Mark Stengler, a leading naturopath, says that anyone taking an antibiotic needs a probiotic -- and not just any old off-the-shelf supplement (and certainly not the worthless little "probiotic" yogurts).

    Instead, take a probiotic that's actually been tested in human studies -- and even more importantly, keep taking it for at least a month after your antibiotic prescription has ended.

    Dr. Stengler added that the best probiotic for fighting C-diff is Sacharomyces boulardii -- so if you're spending any time in a care facility, be sure that one's at the top of your list.

  2. Dirty docs spread disease

    It's the last place you'd expect to face infection risk -- but it turns out it's the one place you need to be on your guard the most.

    It's your doctor's office.

    Conditions in some clinics are so bad that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sent out a reminder to everyone, urging them to review the most basic infection control practices.

    The CDC points to one endoscopy clinic in Nevada caught in the act double-dipping needles and reusing single-use vials of meds -- exposing some 40,000 patients to infection risk and leading to at least seven hepatitis C cases.

    The agency also says the outpatient facilities that now handle more than 75 percent of all surgeries don't have the same infection control standards as hospitals -- a frightening thought when you consider that hospitals themselves aren't very good at preventing infections.

    Hospitals, as you know, are breeding ground for bacteria -- and not just any old strains, but the drug-resistant superbugs responsible for hundreds of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths every year in the United States alone. (Read more here.)

    As a result, bugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile that were once rare and confined to very sick seniors are now starting to infect patients across all age groups.

    And some of them are even starting to spread outside hospitals.

    In addition to doctor's offices, outpatient clinics and hospitals, don't let your guard down at the dentist's office either: Another new study finds that bacteria just love the little chains dentists use to hold your protective paper bib in place.

    These chains rub against the necks of patient after patient -- and the cracks and kinks are the perfect hiding spots for bugs.

    In one experiment, researchers placed chains into a solution designed to pull the bacteria off. They found that chains that had been wiped with or soaked in disinfectant had almost none... but chains that were not cleaned had 1,000 bacteria per millimeter of liquid, according to the study in Infection Control Today.

    Since other studies have found that up to a fifth of all dental bib chains are never cleaned, the risk of getting a contaminated one is a lot higher than you might think -- and you could be rolling the infection dice every time you get
    your teeth cleaned.

    The easy answer is to make sure the chain comes out of a container of disinfectant solution, like a comb at a barbershop.

    But I suppose you could also treat a trip to the dentist like an afternoon painting the house: Just wear old clothes... and skip the bib.

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