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Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficileClostridium difficile are spore-forming bacteria that normally live in the colon, or large bowel. C. difficile can produce toxins that make people sick. Not all strains of C. difficileproduce toxin so some people carry the bacteria but do not get sick from it.

Under certain conditions, C. difficile can cause diarrhea, sometimes accompanied by fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain. People who receive antibiotics are more prone to develop infection with C. difficile. The elderly and people with chronic medical conditions are also more prone to developing C. difficile infections.

Yes. C. difficile produces spores that can survive on surfaces in the environment. These spores can be spread to others on the hands of health care providers or on contaminated environmental surfaces or equipment. C. difficile is usually not spread through casual contact such as touching or hugging. C. difficile is not spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.

While you are in the hospital, you will notice staff taking special precautions. These precautions are taken to prevent the spread of C. difficile. Many of our patients are in a weakened state and are susceptible to infection. Staff caring for you will wear gloves and gowns while in your room. A sign reading “Contact Precautions” is placed at the entrance to the room to alert providers to take special precautions.

Because C. difficile can be spread on the hands, your health care providers will clean their hands with either soap and water or alcohol hand rub before and after they care for you. Please feel free to ask your health care providers if they cleaned their hands and remind them to do so.

You may leave your room if you are able to control your diarrhea, but you must take some precautions. Wash your hands and put on a clean gown or a clean robe. When you are out of the room, please do not touch other patients or items in the environment.

You may have visitors. Your visitors will be asked to wear gloves while in your room. Your visitors should wash their hands before leaving your room. Hand hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of C. difficile. If your visitors take these precautions, it is very unlikely that they will get C. difficile. If you have concerns about whether someone should visit, please talk to your doctor or nurse.

Once you return home, both you and your family members should wash your hands as part of routine hygiene. In most ways, this is no different than the hand washing most people practice to stay healthy. For example, wash before and after eating and after using the toilet. Wash your hands well with soap and water, rinse well, and dry completely. Surfaces in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas should be cleaned on a regular basis using diluted household bleach.

If your family members provide personal care to you while you have C. difficile diarrhea, they should take precautions and wear gloves and wash hands afterward. If clothes or bedding become soiled, wash them in the washing machine with hot soapy water.

Yes. You may kiss and hug.

C. difficile diarrhea may be treated with a course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor and taken by mouth. Once you have completed treatment and diarrhea is resolved, your infection is no longer contagious and you no longer need to take any special precautions.

Anyone providing care for you needs to know if you have C. difficile diarrhea. This includes doctors, nurses, and anyone who may be providing care in your home. Also tell your health care providers that you have developed C. difficile when taking antibiotics in the past.