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New Haven Register: Public health needs a gut check

 Editorial by PLF Executive Director Christian John Lillis

As Americans watch the Ebola virus cut a lethal swath in West Africa, our public health system is not just sending aid and treating a handful of patients. U.S. health experts are learning from the outbreak to shape responses that reduce exposure and save lives.

Similar progress against deadly epidemics that plague us on the home front are possible when the public, the press and policy-makers share a sense of urgency in stopping them.

One of the worst epidemics is Clostridium dificile, or C. diff. Nearly half a million Americans contract a C. diff. infection, or CDI, each year. Nearly 30,000 die from it, often from shutdown of their intestines by C. diff. bacteria.

The C. diff. epidemic underscores the role of the human gut in stopping disease, including from food-borne pathogens, and the overuse of antibiotics, which can zap the gut’s effectiveness. It also highlights the importance of public policy to build awareness, leverage consumers’ buying power, and hold health facilities accountable to high standards of cleanliness and caregiving.

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