Clostridium difficile --- What You Need to Know about Infection (CDI)
What is Clostridium difficile?
Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is a type of bacteria (germ) that lives in the digestive tract (stomach and intestines or bowel) of people. C. diff can make toxins that cause diarrhea, but this is rare when we are healthy. In most cases, C. diff leads to problems for us when we have a lot of it or a special type of it in our bodies. There is a type of C. diff that makes people sick because it makes a lot of toxin.
What are the symptoms of C. diff infection?
- Watery diarrhea
- Belly pain/tenderness
- Loss of appetite
Who is most likely to get C. diff infection?
Healthy people do not often get sick with C. diff. People who need to use antibiotics for a long time and the elderly are the ones most likely to get sick with C. diff. When a person has a C. diff infection, the germs in the stool can spread to surfaces such as toilets, handles, bedpans, commode chairs, bedding, and medical equipment. When patients, family members, and health care workers touch these objects, the C. diff gets on their hands or whatever part of their body touched the object. As they touch more things, the C. diff germ is moved to other surfaces and people.
Can C. diff infection be treated?
Yes, there are antibiotics that can be used to treat C. diff. In some severe cases, a person may need surgery to remove the infected part of the bowel. This surgery is needed in only 1 or 2 out of every 100 persons who have a C. diff infection.
What are some of the things that health care workers do to prevent the spread of C. diff ?
UW Health doctors, nurses, and other health care workers
- Clean their hands with soap and water before and after they care for each patient.
- Clean hospital rooms and equipment that have been used for patients who have C. diff infections with a bleach mixture.
- Use contact precautions to prevent the spread of C. diff from person to person. These safety measures are used with patients who have C. diff infections
- Patients are in private rooms.
- Health care workers wear gowns and gloves to go into patients' rooms and care for them. When ready to leave, they remove their gowns and gloves. Then they wash their hands.
- Patients are asked to stay in their rooms as much as possible. They should not go to common areas such as the gift shop or cafeteria. They can go to other areas for tests and treatments.
- Visitors are asked to wash their hands before they go into and leave patients' rooms. They may also be asked to wear gowns and gloves in the rooms.
What can I do to help prevent the spread of C. diff?
- Make sure that all doctors, nurses, and other health care workers wash their hands with soap and water before and after they care for you. If you do not see them wash their hands, do not be afraid to ask them to.
- Only take antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.
- Be sure to wash your hands often, especially after you use the bathroom and before you eat.
- Put on a clean robe (may use a second gown worn like a robe) and wash your hands before you leave your room. Keep the robe on while you are outside your room.
- Stay in your room except when you need to go for a test or procedure.
What do I need to do when I go home from the hospital?
Once you are back at home, you can return to your normal routine. Often, the diarrhea will be less or all gone before you go home. The chance of giving C. diff to other people is much less when you have little or no diarrhea. Still, there are a few things you should do to decrease the chance of having C. diff infection again and spreading it to others.
- If you are given medicine to treat C. diff, take it exactly as the doctor and pharmacist say. Do not take half of the medicine or stop it before you run out.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, especially after you go to the bathroom and before you touch food.
- If you are able, make one bathroom in your house for your use only while you are sick. In other words, that bathroom will only be used by you and you will not use any others. Clean the bathroom including light switches, door knobs and faucet handles with a 1:10 bleach solution (1 cup bleach, 9 cups water).
- When you wash objects that have stool on them, first rinse them in water. Then wash them in hot water with soap. If you are able, add some bleach to the water to help kill the germs. Dry objects that are suited for the dryer on the hottest setting that will not damage them.
- If you have more diarrhea after you get home, tell your doctor right away.
FAQs about "Clostridium Difficile". The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. http://www.shea-online.org/Assets/files/patient guides/New_Logo_C-Diff_largertext.pdf
Guide to the Elimination of Clostridium difficile in Healthcare Settings. Association for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC)
Clostridium difficile Infection (C. diff, CDI, C.difficile. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/cdiff/Cdiff_infect.html
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/08/2011
Copyright © 05/27/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7219
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