Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile)


What is Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)?

Clostridioides difficile (also called C. difficile or C. diff.) is a bacterium that can be found in a person's intestines (gut) without causing them to get sick. Healthy people are less likely to get sick from C. difficile.

What is a C. difficile infection?

C. difficile can produce toxins or types of poison that can cause swelling in the intestinal tract as well as symptoms like diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. C. difficile can cause a few serious illnesses including diarrhea, colitis and sepsis.

How is C. difficile found?

At UHN, all admitted patients who unexpectedly report or develop diarrhea are isolated and tested for C. difficile infection.

What does it mean to have C. difficile? Is it contagious?

Taking certain antibiotics (medicine that fights infection) or having chemotherapy can make it easier for C. difficile to grow and cause infection. C. difficile can live on objects for up to 30 days or more. It can be picked up by touching a person who has C. difficile, or a surface contaminated with C. difficile and then touching your mouth.

What is UHN doing to prevent the spread of C. difficile?

Good environment cleaning is very important in preventing the spread of C. difficile. At UHN we also use specialized cleaning protocols to reduce C. difficile transmission from patient to patient in the hospital.

How do I Prevent the spread?

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of C. difficile. Always clean your hands after using the toilet, before meals and upon leaving the room. Health care staff and visitors must clean their hands when they enter and when they leave the patient's room. Don't be shy about reminding everyone to clean their hands.

Can I still have visitors?

Visitors are still permitted for individuals under Contact precautions for C. difficile. We ask that visitors wear a fresh set of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including gowns and gloves before entering the patient's room.

For more on visitation while in the hospital, please contact your healthcare team or see UHN's General Visitation Guidelines.

More Information

UHN C. difficile Rates

C. difficile rates at UHN are measured and monitored closely by the UHN Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) team and reported monthly to the Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care.

To view C. difficile rates for all Ontario Hospitals, please visit the Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care website.

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