C. difficile Reporting Q&As
How does C. difficile spread?
How is C. difficile diagnosed?
How is C. difficile treated?
What precautions are used to prevent the spread of C. difficile in the hospital?
How does Headwaters Health Care Centre control the spread of C. difficile?

Measuring Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) rates:
The C. difficile infection rate is calculated as a rate per 1,000 patient days.
The "total patient days" represents the sum of the number of days during which services were provided to all inpatients during the given time period.

The rate is calculated as follows:
Number of new hospital acquired cases of C. difficile in our facility x 1000
Total number of patient days (for one month)

What are hospital-acquired infections?
Sometimes when patients are admitted to the hospital, they can get infections. These are called hospital-acquired infections. In the case of C. difficile, this may mean that symptoms began 72 hours after admission to the hospital; or that the infection was present at the time of admission but was related to a previous admission to that hospital within the last four weeks.

What is C. difficile?
C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) is a bacteria. C. difficile can be part of the normal bacteria in the large intestine and is one of the many bacteria that can be found in stool (a bowel movement).
A C. difficile infection occurs when other good bacteria in the bowel are eliminated or decreased allowing the C. difficile bacteria to grow and produce toxin. The toxin produced can damage the bowel and cause diarrhea. C. difficile is one example of a hospital-acquired infection and is one of the most common infections found in hospitals and long-term care facilities. C. difficile has been a known cause of health care associated diarrhea for about 30 years.

Who is at risk for C. difficile?
Healthy people are not usually susceptible to C. difficile. Seniors, and people who have other illnesses or conditions being treated with antibiotics and certain other stomach medications, are at greater risk of an infection from C. difficile.

What are the symptoms of C. difficile?
The usual symptoms are mild but can be severe. Main symptoms are watery diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain /tenderness. In some cases there may not be diarrhea. Blood may or may not be present in the stools.

How do you get C. difficile?
C. difficile is the most common cause of hospital associated infectious diarrhea. Since it can be part of the normal bacteria that live in the large intestine, taking antibiotics can change the normal balance of bacteria in your large intestine making it easier for C. difficile to grow and cause an infection. Old age and the presence of other serious illnesses may increase the risk of C. difficile disease.

How does C. difficile spread?
When a person has C. difficile, the germs in the stool can soil surfaces such as toilets, handles, bedpans, or commode chairs. When touching these items, your hands can become soiled. If you then touch your mouth, you can swallow the germ. Your soiled hands can spread germs that can survive for a long time on other surfaces if not properly cleaned.

The spread of C. difficile occurs due to inadequate hand hygiene and environmental cleaning; therefore, proper control is achieved through consistent hand hygiene and thorough cleaning of the patient environment. Good hand hygiene i.e., washing hands thoroughly and often is the single-most effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like C. difficile.

How is C. difficile diagnosed?
We screen patients when they are admitted and at other times during his or her hospital stay when diarrhea is present. If a patient is at high risk for infection we do stool testing. If bacteria is found we put control programs in place to prevent transmission to other patients.

How is C. difficile treated?
C. difficile is treated with targeted, specialized antibiotics.

What precautions are used to prevent the spread of C. difficile in the hospital?
If you are in the hospital and have C. difficile diarrhea, you will be treated with additional precautions until you are free from diarrhea for at least two days. Your activities outside the room may be restricted. All health care staff who enter your room will wear a gown and gloves. Everyone MUST clean their hands when entering and leaving your room.

How does Headwaters Health Care Centre control the spread of C. difficile?
Headwaters Health Care Centre's Infection Prevention & Control Unit is responsible for working with employees, visitors and patients to minimize hospital-acquired infections. To control the spread of these infections, we use routine practices such as: hand washing, environmental cleaning, sterilization of equipment, single use of supplies, education and additional isolation precautions.