Many hospitals have succeeded in driving down the rates of some once-common infections, including MRSA, a type of staph bacteria that doesn't respond to some antibiotics. Changed medical practices have helped, including keeping patients in intensive care hooked up to ventilators only for as long as is necessary. Helping to spur action: The government has set a goal of reducing hospital infections and other preventable problems by 40% by next year from 2010 levels. 

At highest risk for C. diff are patients, especially older adults, who are on antibiotics for other infections. The drugs destroy good germs that protect against infection for several months, during which time patients can get sick from C. diff picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a health-care provider's hands.

Hospitals began isolating patients who had contracted C. diff and asked doctors to restrict the use of the antibiotic Cipro. But it was becoming clear that spores could survive for weeks, even on a doorknob. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers didn't kill C. diff, and hand-washing wasn't sufficient. So the hospital adopted new, stronger soaps containing the antiseptic chlorhexidine for staffers and patients. Cleaning crews began using bleach and a more potent form of hydrogen peroxide. Rooms were scrubbed as never before: In rooms where C. diff patients had been treated, even the curtains were taken down and cleaned. What can be done to small island caribbean states like Jamaica?.