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Clostridium Difficile Infections

What are Clostridium difficile infections?

Clostridium difficile, often called C. diff by health care professionals, is a type of bacteria that causes diarrhea and other intestinal diseases. It usually does not make healthy people ill, but it can cause serious illness in older people or people with weakened immune systems, such as many health care patients. The germ is naturally occurring in the intestines of some people, but it can overwhelm a patient's body if the balance between good and bad bacteria in his or her intestines is disrupted, which can sometimes be caused by antibiotics. C. diff is a tough bacteria and can live outside the human body for long periods of time, so hospitals must use strict infection control measures to prevent hospital patients from becoming sickened by the bacteria.

What are we doing to prevent Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections?

To prevent C. diff infections, doctors, nurses and other health care team members:

  • Wash their hands with soap and water or clean their hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer before and after caring for every patient.
  • Only prescribe and give patients antibiotics when necessary.
  • Carefully clean all of our hospital rooms and medical equipment to remove C. diff germs.

Additionally, all patients with C. diff are given a private room or share a room with another patient who has C. diff, to avoid spreading the bacteria. When caring for patients with C. diff, caregivers wear gloves and a gown over their clothing.

What can patients do to help?

Patients and their families can also help reduce the risk of C. difficile infections. To learn more, please read the C. difficile fact sheet.

How are we doing?

University of Missouri Health Care has reduced our infection rates for C. difficile over the past three years by following recognized best practices such as those listed above. Our infection rates are calculated by comparing the average number of infections for every 1,000 days patients are in our hospitals. MU Health Care's current rates are 0.25 infections per 1,000 patient days compared to a rate of 0.88 infections per 1,000 patient days in 2008.

More infection prevention measures

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