Clostridium Difficile

This information describes infection with Clostridium difficile (C. diff), including how it is spread and how it is treated.

What is Clostridium difficile?

Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is a germ that causes infection, resulting in diarrhea and colitis. Colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine (bowel).

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How is C. diff spread?

C. diff is spread by direct contact with an infected person’s stool (feces). It can also be spread by contact with equipment or surfaces that are contaminated with the germ. Casual contact, such as touching or hugging, does not spread C. diff.

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Who is at risk for a C. diff infection?

C. diff infections occur more often in people who:

  • Are older
  • Have weakened immune systems
  • Have chronic illnesses
  • Have been treated with antibiotics in the past
  • Have had abdominal surgery
  • Have had repeated or prolonged hospitalizations
  • Have taken antacids (medication to reduce stomach acid)
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What are the symptoms of a C. diff infection?

Symptoms of mild cases of C. diff infections include frequent, foul-smelling, watery stools. Symptoms of more severe cases include abdominal cramps and diarrhea with blood and mucous.

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How is a C. diff infection treated?

C. diff infection is treated with antibiotics. The usual treatment is metronidazole (Flagyl®), which is taken for 7 to 14 days.

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What isolation precautions are taken in the hospital if I have a C. diff infection?

  • If you have been diagnosed with a C. diff infection, you will be placed in a private room.
  • A sign will be posted on the door instructing all staff and visitors to take precautions.
  • All staff and visitors must clean their hands before going into and after leaving your room. They must wash their hands with soap and water after leaving your room.
  • All staff and visitors who enter your room must wear a yellow gown and gloves.
  • If you leave your room for tests, you must wear a yellow gown and gloves or be covered with a clean sheet.
  • If you leave your room to walk around the unit, you must wear a yellow gown and gloves.
  • You will not be able to go to the following areas of the hospital:
    • Pantry on your unit
    • Recreation center on M15
    • Pediatric recreation areas on M9
    • Cafeteria
    • Main lobby
    • Any other public area of the hospital
  • While following these isolation precautions, you can have art or massage therapy in your room.
  • These precautions will be discontinued after you have received treatment and no longer have symptoms.
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What precautions should I take at home if I have a C. diff infection?

Healthy people are not at high risk for getting C. diff infections. However, be sure to do the following at home:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom.
  • Use a bleach-based disinfectant such as Clorox® or Lysol® to wipe any surfaces that may have been contaminated with the germ.
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