Clostridium difficile (C. difficile, or C. diff) is a bacteria that affects the digestive tract – and left untreated, it can cause maladies that range from mild to life-threatening. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated half million C. difficile infections occurred in the U.S. in 2011.1
Causes and Symptoms
C. difficile spores are most commonly transmitted by hands and contaminated surfaces, and the bacteria very typically spreads in hospitals, long-term facilities and other healthcare settings.
In a mild case of C. difficile, the patient may experience several days of occasional diarrhea and abdominal tenderness. But as the organisms multiply in the gut, symptoms may escalate to:
> diarrhea that occurs up to 15 times a day
> blood in the stool
At its most dangerous, C. difficile can cause a tear in the colon, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.
Reduce the Risk
The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommend practicing proper hand hygiene using soap and water, as well as ensuring cleaning and disinfection of equipment and the environment to help prevent CDI. Adherence to cleaning protocols and the adequacy of cleaning and disinfection should be routinely assessed with observation and monitoring.2
2. Dubberke E, Carling P, Carrico R, et al. Strategies to Prevent Clostridium difficile Infections in Acute Care Hospitals: 2014 Update. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. 2014; 35: 628-645.
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