I almost died from superbug, says actress Kathy Burke


Last updated at 10:10 10 January 2008

Actress Kathy Burke has revealed that she nearly died after contracting a superbug in hospital.

The 43-year-old comedienne-turned-theatre-director caught Clostridium difficile last year when she was being treated for abdominal problems and a glandular condition.

Miss Burke - famed for her role as Waynetta Slob in the Harry Enfield series on TV - contracted the stomach bug at a Health Service hospital in London following an operation.

"I got quite ill last year with loads of stuff," she said. "It all happened at once, really.

"I had three near-death experiences [but] I didn't see any white light or nuns or anything.

"I had that C.difficile hospital bug that everyone is going on about. It was an experience. There's not much they can do. They just let you get on with it. It's a breakdown of the whole immune system.

"To be fair to the NHS, I did catch the bug because something else was seriously wrong with me that nobody knew about. My adrenal glands were packing in.

"Once they opened me up and operated on me, I was susceptible to lots of other things."

While preparing to operate on Miss Burke's stomach for an undisclosed condition, doctors found problems with her adrenal glands, which are responsible for maintaining the body's energy levels.

She was forced to take nearly a year off work after contracting C.difficile, which causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration.

Miss Burke, who made a cameo appearance on The Catherine Tate show over Christmas, also lost around two stone due to the bug.

The NHS has been repeatedly criticised over its handling of the superbug, but Miss Burke defended the service.

"I have to say I was very well looked after," she told Mark Lamar and Jo Brand, the stand-in presenters on Jonathan Ross' Radio 2 show.

"I had a brilliant doctor called Richard Marley. They looked after me to the best of their abilities. I am not here to slag them off. It's been a bit of a strange year for me, to be honest."

C. difficile, a bacterium found in the gut, is the most common form of hospital-acquired infection in the West and mainly affects older people.

It thrives in filthy conditions, and can be tackled by improving hygiene.

According to latest figures, it contributed to the deaths of nearly 4,000 in the UK in 2006. Cases of the superbug, which is harder to control than MRSA, increased by 8 per cent compared with 2005.

On Tuesday ministers announced that hospitals will be allocated £45million to hire specialist isolation nurses and other staff.

In the last four months, the Government has announced - or reannounced - at least six initiatives to combat hospital superbugs.

But three months ago figures from the Healthcare Commission watchdog showed one in four NHS trusts had failed to meet at least one of three standards on infection control.

Last night, a spokesman for Miss Burke declined to comment further.