What is Clostridium difficile (C. diff)?

C. diff is bacteria spread in fecal matter that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to fatal inflammation of the colon (toxic megacolon). Bacteria can cause severe symptoms that can actually be life-threatening. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Each year in the United States, about a half million people get sick from C. difficile, and in recent years, C. difficile infections have become more frequent, severe and difficult to treat1.”

How does is present? What are the symptoms?

Watery stool more than 4 times a day for two or more days. It can present with a distinct smell in some cases, patients have noted. Patients also complain of abdominal pain and cramping. Other symptoms may include loss of appetite, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Diarrhea can become so severe that dehydration in patients is extremely common. Sometimes IV fluids are needed. Sometimes certain specialists will choose to hospitalize you, but the goal is to keep this germ out of any hospital floors since it is so contagious and care teams must glove and gown up each time they come in your room.

Treating C. Diff

Antibiotics must be used in patients with Clostridium difficile. These antibiotics are very strong and there are many side effects, including many of the same that mimic symptoms of C. diff. Vancomycin is generally used in the first treatment of defense. Your doctor may have you complete another stool sample once you have finished a round of antibiotics to ensure the bacteria has left the body. It’s important to clean and continue to bleach surfaces and bathroom areas as reoccurrence can be common, especially within a 5-month window frame of which c. diff microbes can live on surfaces for.

Treating C diff in patients with IBD can be difficult. According to Dr. David Binion, MD “IBD is destabilized by the infection, so to bring IBD patients under control, both conditions have to be managed effectively. This means controlling the infectious problem with C difficile while, at the same time, addressing the flare of the underlying IBD colitis, which has been induced by the infection2.”

Prevention

To help prevent the spread of C. difficile, hospitals and healthcare facilities follow certain infection-control guidelines, like the gowning up and face mask mentioned above.

Preventive measures include:

Handwashing

This is the biggest thing one can do to prevent catching the infection, as well as washing with antibacterial soap often.

Disposable gloves

These are used when cleaning the bathroom with bleach. People who are hospitalized with C. difficile have a private room or share a room with someone who has the same illness. Hospital staff and visitors wear disposable gloves and isolation gowns while in the room.

Clean very, very well with bleach

The cleaning needs to be done every time you have a bowel movement. Be very thorough if you have loose stool. It’s important to note that the spores of C. difficile are able to survive cleaning products that don’t have bleach in them. Consider ordering specialty bleach wipes and sprays from online.

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