Clostridium Difficile (C. diff)

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By the Numbers

  • Definition:
    • Clostridium difficile is an spore forming bacterium that causes colitis and diarrhea
    • Opportunistic infection caused when there is an imbalance in gut flora
    • Shed in feces
    • Transferred to patients mainly via the hands from those who have touched a contaminated surface or item
  • Responsible for 14,000 deaths annually
    • Almost all C. difficile infections are connected to getting medical care
    • Almost half of infections occur in people younger than 65, but more than 90% of deaths occur in people 65 and older
    • Hospitals following infection control recommendations lowered C. difficile infection rates by 20% in less than 2 years

Bundles, Guidelines & Toolkits

For Clinicians: 6 Steps to Prevention

  1. Prescribe and use antibiotics carefully. About 50% of all antibiotics given are not needed, unnecessarily raising the risk of C. difficile infections.
  2. Test for C. difficile when patients have diarrhea while on antibiotics or within several months of taking them.
  3. Isolate patients with C. difficile immediately.
  4. Wear gloves and gowns when treating patients with C. difficile, even during short visits. Hand sanitizer does not kill C. difficile, and hand washing may not be sufficient.
  5. Clean room surfaces with bleach or another EPA-approved, spore-killing disinfectant after a patient with C. difficile has been treated there.
  6. When a patient transfers, notify the new facility if the patient has a C. difficile infection

(CDC, 2012)