Clostridium difficile – Overview

What is Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)?

Clostridium difficile [klo-STRID-ee-um dif-uh-SEEL] is a bacterium that causes diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions such as colitis.

What are C. difficile diseases?

They are diseases that result from C. difficile infections such as Colitis, more serious intestinal conditions, sepsis, and, rarely, death.

What are the symptoms of C. difficile disease?

Symptoms include:

  • watery diarrhea (at least three bowel movements per day for two or more days)
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain/tenderness

How is C. difficile disease treated?

C. difficile is generally treated for 10 days with antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare provider. The drugs are effective and appear to have few side-effects.

How do people get C. difficile disease?

People in good health usually don’t get C. difficile disease. People who have other illnesses or conditions requiring prolonged use of antibiotics and the elderly are at greater risk of acquiring this disease. The bacteria are found in the feces. People can become infected if they touch items or surfaces that are contaminated with feces and then touch their mouth or mucous membranes. Healthcare workers can spread the bacteria to other patients or contaminate surfaces through hand contact.

What should I do to prevent the spread of C. difficile to others?

If you are infected you can spread the disease to others. However, only people that are hospitalized or on antibiotics are likely to become ill. For safety precautions you may do the following to reduce the chance of spread to others:

  • wash hands with soap and water, especially after using the restroom and before eating;
  • clean surfaces in bathrooms, kitchens and other areas on a regular basis with detergent/disinfectants

What should I do if I think I have C. difficile disease?

See your healthcare provider.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the 13 major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the principal agency in the United States government for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and for providing essential human services, especially for those people who are least able to help themselves.

Since it was founded in 1946 to help control malaria, CDC has remained at the forefront of public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities and environmental health threats.