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In a Sea of Diseases, C-diff Remains Afloat

By Jill Duis RN
JCHC Infection Preventionist

Clostridium difficile (pronounced Kl-STRID-ee-um dif-uh-SEEL,) also known as “C-diff”, is a germ that can cause diarrhea.  Most cases of C-diff infection occur in patients taking antibiotics.  C-diff was once thought to only be spread in hospitals, but new studies have shown that the general population can acquire the infection from the community OR from a health care facility.

Symptoms of C-diff include:

  • Watery diarrhea that has a bad odor (sometimes the person will have many stools in a short period of time)
  • Fever (may be a mild fever)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Belly pain and tenderness

People taking antibiotics, elderly people and people with certain medical problems have the greatest risk of getting C-diff.  Most cases of C-diff infection occur in patients taking antibiotics.  Often the disease can be controlled simply by stopping antibiotics.  In some cases the disease can become severe and very difficult to control and can require additional procedures.

C-diff is so hard to control because the spores that cause the disease can live outside the human body for a very long time.  They can be found on things such as bed linens, bathroom fixtures, and medical equipment.  C-diff infection can spread from person to person on contaminated surfaces or on a person’s hands.

Health care facilities, including Jefferson Community Health Center, take special precautions to prevent the development and spread of C-diff.  The use of an antibiotic is carefully considered, health care rooms and equipment are carefully cleaned with specialized cleaning products, and healthcare workers take special precautions to prevent the spread of any infection.  A patient who has developed C-diff will receive care in a private room.  Health care workers will wear special protective clothing and take additional precautions to prevent the spread of the infection.  Visitors may also be asked to wear protective clothing.

For infections that occur in the home, a general cleaning with a diluted bleach solution (1 cup bleach in 10 cups of water) will reduce the chance of the spread of the infection.

With all the precautions health care has put into place, the most effective means of controlling the spread of the disease is to simply wash your hands with soap and water.  This is one disease that an alcohol based hand rub will not work to kill.  Using soap, water and rubbing the hands together for 30-45 seconds and drying with a towel has proven to reduce the spread of disease.

If you have additional questions please call your health care provider for guidance.

Information obtained from:
CDC:  Center for Disease Control
APIC:  Association of Professionals in Infection Control
SHEA:  Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America
IDSA:  Infectious Disease Society of America
AHA:  American Hospital Association

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