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What is Clostridium Difficile (C. diff)?
C. diff is one of the many types of bacteria that can be found in feces (bowel movement).
What is C. diff Disease?
C. diff occurs when antibiotics kill your good bowel bacteria and allow the C. diff to grow.
When C. diff grows, it produces toxins. These toxins can damage the bowel and may cause
diarrhea. C. diff disease is usually mild but sometimes can be severe. In severe cases, surgery
may be needed, and in extreme cases C. diff may cause death. C. diff is the most common cause
of infectious diarrhea in hospitals or long-term care homes.
The main symptoms of C. diff disease are:
Who Gets C. diff?
C. diff disease usually occurs during or after the use of antibiotics. Old age, presence of other
serious illnesses and poor overall health may increase the risk of severe disease.
How Will Your Doctor Know That You Have C. diff?
If you have symptoms of C. diff, your doctor will ask for a sample of your watery stool. The
laboratory will test the stool to see if C. diff toxins are present.
How is C. diff Treated?
Treatment depends on how sick you are. People with mild symptoms may not need treatment.
For more severe disease, antibiotics are required.
How Does C. diff Spread?
When a person has C. diff disease, the bacteria in the stool can contaminate surfaces such as
toilets, handles, bedpans, or commode chairs. When touching these items our hands can become
contaminated. If we then touch our mouth without washing our hands, we can become infected.
Our soiled hands can also spread the bacteria to other surfaces.
How to Prevent Spread?
If you are in the hospital and have C. diff. diarrhea, you will be put on precautions until you are
free from diarrhea for at least two days. Your activities outside the room may be restricted. All
health care staff who enter your room wear a gown and gloves. Everyone MUST clean their
hands when leaving your room.
Always wash your hands after using the bathroom. Cleaning hands is the most important way
for everyone to prevent the spread of C. diff. As well, a thorough cleaning of your room and
equipment will be done to prevent spread of the infection.
What Should I Do at Home?
Healthy people like your family and friends who are not taking antibiotics are at very low risk of
getting C. diff disease.
Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds:
Cleaning the house
Use an all purpose household cleaner. Follow the directions on the label, and:
• Wet the surface well and clean using good friction • Pay special attention to areas that may be soiled with feces such as the toilet and sink. Remove any visible feces, and then clean as described above
Cleaning clothes/other fabric
Wash clothes/fabric separately if they are heavily soiled with feces:
• Clean in a hot water cycle with soap • Dry items in the dryer on high heat, if possible
Regular cleaning – use the dishwasher or clean by hand with soap and water.
It is very important that you take all your medication as prescribed by your doctor. You should not use any drugs from the drugstore that will stop your diarrhea (e.g. Imodium). If diarrhea persists or comes back, contact your doctor. For more information on Clostridium difficile, visit http://www.health.gov.on.ca This document is based on information prepared by The Ottawa Hospital. November, 2006
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