Providence Healthcare
Providence Healthcare

Patient Education – C. difficile

What is C. difficile?

Clostridium difficile – a.k.a. C. difficile – is one of many types of bacteria that can be found in feces (bowel movements), and has been a known cause of health-care associated diarrhea for about 30 years. It is found in the intestine, occurring naturally in three to five per cent of adults without causing symptoms. Healthy people are not usually susceptible to C. difficile. Seniors and people who have other illnesses/conditions and are being treated with antibiotics and other stomach medications are at greater risk of an infection from C. difficile.

Providence Hospital reports its rates of C. difficile on a monthly basis to help foster transparency and awareness of patient safety. View our rates here.

What causes C. difficile?

C. difficile can be picked up on hands and gets into the stomach once the mouth is touched, or if food is handled and then swallowed. Once in the stomach, the bacteria will not cause any problems unless other bowel bacteria are disturbed, which can happen when antibiotics are taken. The use of the antibiotics increases the chances of developing C. difficile diarrhea as it alters the normal level of good bacteria found in the intestines and the colon. Without the presence of normal bowel bacteria, C. difficile bacteria may start to grow and produce a toxin that can damage the bowel and lead to watery diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain or tenderness.

How does C. difficile spread?

When a person has C. difficile, bacteria in their feces can contaminate surfaces, such as toilets, bedpans and door handles (if feces is on hands). Other healthy individuals can contaminate their hands if they touch these items. If these individuals then touch their mouths without washing their hands, they can become infected. The spread of C. difficile occurs due to inadequate hand hygiene and environmental cleaning. C. difficile produces spores that survive for long periods and are resistant to destruction by many environmental factors, including temperature and humidity.Good hand hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like C. difficile.

What steps is Providence Hospital taking to protect patients from C. difficile?

Providence Hospital has an expert Infection Prevention and Control department. The role of these individuals is to minimize risk for our patients by educating and working with our dedicated frontline staff, ensuring protocols are followed to minimize C. difficile.

Is there anything families and visitors can do to reduce the risk of C. difficile?

Thorough hand washing is the single most important way to reduce the spread of infections. Visitors and families to Providence Hospital can help to minimize the spread of any infection by washing their hands. Hand sanitizing stations are provided at all major entrances to Providence Healthcare, and wall-mounted units are located throughout the facility. Hands should be sanitized whenever entering and exiting the building and before and after assisting with any care (e.g. feeding, toileting).

Are some people more likely to acquire C. difficile than others?

Healthy people have a lower risk of acquiring C. difficile. Those who are more susceptible are the elderly, and those who have been in hospital for a long time or are being treated with antibiotics.

What happens if a patient acquires C. difficile while in Providence Hospital?

If a patient acquires C. difficile, additional precautions will be taken including moving the patient to a private room. Visitors and direct care staff will be required to wear gowns and gloves. As always, vigilant hand washing will be required.