Frequently asked questions
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.
Q2. 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).
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 treated?
C. difficile is usually treated by stopping the current antibiotic. You will be started on a new antibiotic. This antibiotic is specific in working against C. difficile. The antibiotic is taken by mouth.
Please visit the provincial website to find the hand hygiene audit results for Health Sciences North.
The single most common way of transferring health care-associated infections (HAIs) in health care settings is on the hands of health care providers. Health care providers move from patient to patient and room to room while providing care and working in the patient environment. Proper hand hygiene will protect patients and providers and will reduce the spread of infections and the associated treatment costs, reduce hospital lengths of stay and readmissions, reduce wait times, and prevent deaths.
Ontario hospitals are required to publicly report hand hygiene compliance rates. Hospitals will post on their web sites, on an annual basis, by hospital site, the compliance rate for:
- Hand hygiene before initial contact with the patient/patient’s environment for all health care providers
- Hand hygiene after contact with the patient/patient’s environment for all health care providers