What You Need to Know about Clostridium difficile (C.diff) Infection (CDI)
What is Clostridium difficile?
Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is a germ that lives in the digestive tract (stomach and intestines or
bowel). C. diff can make toxins that cause diarrhea.
What are the symptoms of C. diff infection?
ξ Watery diarrhea
ξ Belly pain/tenderness
ξ Loss of appetite
Who is most likely to get C. diff infection?
People who need to use antibiotics and the elderly are the ones most likely to get sick with C.
diff. 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. If a person ingests (eats) the germ from their unwashed hands, C. diff can
cause an infection.
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 hospitals & clinics do to prevent the spread of C. diff?
To prevent C. diff infections doctors, nurses, and other health care workers:
ξ Clean their hands before, and wash with soap and water after they care for each patient.
ξ Use a special cleaner to clean rooms and equipment that have been used for patients who
have C. diff infections.
ξ Use enhanced contact precautions to prevent the spread of C. diff from person to
What are the safety precautions taken when a C. Diff patient is in the hospital?
ξ Patients are in private rooms.
ξ Health care workers and visitors will wear gowns and gloves to go into patients’ rooms.
Nurses will be able to teach you how to properly wear a gown and gloves.
ξ When ready to leave, they remove their gown and gloves and wash their hands with soap
and water before leaving the room.
ξ Patients stay in their rooms as much as possible. They do not go to common areas such as
the unit kitchen area, gift shop or cafeteria. They can go to other areas for tests and
What can I do to help prevent the spread of C. diff in the health system?
ξ Make sure that all doctors, nurses, and other health care workers clean their hands before,
and wash with soap and water after they care for you. Don’t be afraid to ask them to clean
ξ Remind visitors to wear a gown and gloves and wash their hands with soap and water as
they come and go.
ξ Wash your hands often, especially after you use the bathroom and before you touch food.
ξ Do not actively seek antibiotics for common, often viral infections (head cold). Only take
antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.
ξ Stay in your room except when you need to go for a test or procedure.
ξ If you are in the hospital and you do leave your room, put on a clean robe and wash your
hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds (or singing “happy birthday” two
times) before you leave and keep the robe on while you are outside your room.
What do I do when I go home?
When you are at home, you can follow your normal routine. However, there are a few things
you should do to decrease the chance of having C. diff infection again and spreading it to others.
ξ If you are given medicine to treat C. diff, take it exactly as the doctor and pharmacist say.
ξ Wash your hands with soap and water often, especially after you go to the bathroom and
before you touch food.
ξ People who live with you should also wash their hands with soap and water often.
ξ Remind visitors to wash their hands with soap and water as they come and go.
ξ 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).
ξ When you wash objects/clothing 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
ξ If you begin to have diarrhea or if your diarrhea gets worse, tell your doctor right away.
FAQs about “Clostridium Difficile”. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.
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.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7929
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7219