C. Diff FAQs
Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is a fairly common type of bacterium found all around us. The FAQs below provide answers to the most pressing questions about C. diff infections.
C. diff is a bacterium that can be found in stool and can cause inflammation of the colon, known as colitis, which can be severe and lead to fever, nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea.
Stanford Health Care is safe. In fact, during the second half of 2017, Vizient – one of America’s leading health care performance improvement organizations – ranked Stanford Health Care 14th of 95 in safety among the most complex/comprehensive academic medical centers (AMCs).
Stanford Health Care's Standard Infection Rate (SIR) in March of 2018 is lower than that of comparable AMCs. C. diff rates have been consistently decreasing thanks to the work of Stanford Health Care infection prevention teams that have implemented programs to identify and prevent infections, ensure better hygiene monitoring and facilitate a more focused use of antibiotics.
Patients who have other illnesses or conditions requiring the use of antibiotics, have prolonged stays in health care settings, a compromised immune system and the elderly have a higher risk of C. diff infection.
C. diff is found in feces. Any surface, device or material that becomes contaminated with feces could house C. diff spores. SHC’s research shows transmission of C. diff from patient to patient is rare and that most patients are infected with a C. difficile organism they were already carrying. The biggest risk for infection is the use of antibiotics.
No. Patients can be colonized with the C. diff organism but have no symptoms of infection. These patients do not require treatment.
A person who has been colonized with C. diff would not have symptoms of colitis, but can still test positive. Because diarrhea is a common side effect of many medications and procedures, it alone is not enough to indicate infection or require treatment.
A person with C. diff infection has symptoms of colitis, including fever, nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea. These patients require treatment to cure the infection. C. diff colonization is much more common than C. diff infection, and false positive tests for infection can skew a hospital’s infection rates.
In June of 2015, Stanford Health Care changed the way it was identifying patients that need to be tested for a C. diff infection, focusing on testing those patients that were actually experiencing symptoms. Stanford Health Care undertook this initiative to reduce false positive test results and ensure treatment was only being administrated to those who would actually benefit from it. A second, related initiative undertaken in November 2017 further reduced false positives and thus unnecessary treatment.
The single most important measure to prevent C. difficile infection is limiting the use of antibiotics to only when they are truly needed. Stanford Health Care takes several other precautions including stringent handwashing protocols and thorough cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces as well as all equipment and devices that come in contact with a C. diff patient. A second cleaning is performed daily by housekeeping on those surfaces that are touched frequently.