More than 100 Canadian women infected with cancer after ‘routine’ hospital infection

N.S. Health Officials

At least 129 women suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Nova Scotia were diagnosed with the disease in the two years between 2014 and 2017 after they were exposed to C. difficile bacterium from hospital outbreaks at the University of St. Francis Xavier, Statistics Canada has reported.

The reports, which are being published Thursday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed the infections led to 129 women being diagnosed with the disease between July 2014 and July 2017.

Ileen Zhabri with the Nova Scotia Public Health Agency said the outbreak had only one confirmed report of a person dying from the infection before the numbers were released.

“At that time, we had two confirmed cases of death from C. difficile, which was associated with the outbreak,” she said in an interview.

“Then because the outbreak wasn’t really over at that point, we did not have any individuals who had died in a nursing home in Nova Scotia who had gotten this infection while they were in care.”

Meanwhile, Zhabri said a separate incident at Queen’s University last month led to the hospitalization of 23 patients with hepatitis C and the first confirmed case of an infection linked to the hepatitis C outbreak.

The Association of Nova Scotia Nurses-Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia said it has identified 319 affected women with nine registered nurses having the highest percentage of exposure with more than 50 per cent.

Zhabri said the reports released by Statistics Canada show very few recorded cases of disease causation, which is due to two reasons: the patients in care were not always kept together and not always at the same hospital.

She said all women included in the numbers were exposed during hospital wards where multiple patients were together, although some were exposed at a different time or hospital.

“For us, because it’s a rare event, I think it’s an important indicator for us that although this isn’t a common occurrence, when it happens, it does happen and it can be quite problematic,” she said.

“So it’s important to have all the pieces of information in order to develop interventions to deal with it.”

Zhabri said any awareness of the outbreak is important because it shows it’s not an “isolated event” but how common C. difficile is in Canada.

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