What is Clostridium difficile (C. diff)?
C. diff is one of the many germs (bacteria) that can be found in stool (a bowel movement). C. diff disease occurs when antibiotics kill your good bowel bacteria and allow the C. diff to grow. When C. diff grows, it produces substances (toxins). These toxins can damage the bowel and may cause diarrhea. C. diff disease is usually mild but sometimes can be severe. C. diff is the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitals. C. diff is also known as CDI – Clostridium Difficile Infection and CDAD – Clostridium Difficile Associated Disease.
Who gets C. diff?
C. diff disease usually occurs during or after the use of antibiotics. Older age, presence of other serious illnesses and poor overall health may increase the risk of severe disease.
How does C. diff spread?
When a person has C. diff disease the germs in the stool can soil surfaces such as toilets, handles, bedpans, or commode chairs. When touching these items our hands can become soiled. If we then touch our mouth we can swallow the germ. Our soiled hands also can spread the germ to other surfaces.
What happens if someone has C. diff?
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.
The main symptoms of C. diff disease are:
- watery diarrhea
- abdominal pain or tenderness
How do I prevent the spread of C. diff?
If you have C. diff diarrhea while in hospital, you will be moved to a private room until you are free from diarrhea for at least 2 days. Your activities outside the room will be restricted. Everyone who enters your room wears gloves and may wear a gown. 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 this germ. As well, a thorough cleaning of your room and equipment will be done to remove any germs.
Good Hand washing is important in preventing the spread of C. diff!
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds:
- after using the toilet
- after touching dirty surfaces
- before eating
- before preparing meals
Source: PIDAC (2013) Annex C: Testing, Surveillance and Management of Clostridium Difficile in all Health Care Settings
This page provides basic information only. It must not take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to a health care professional about any health concerns.
For Further Information
Call the Infectious Disease Program: (807) 625-5900
or toll-free 1-888-294-6630