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Clostridium Difficile

What is Clostridium Difficile?

Clostridium difficile also known as “C. difficile” and “C diff” is a bacterium (germ) that normally lives in your large intestine (gut/bowel).

A small proportion (less than 1 in 20) of the healthy adult population carry a small amount of Clostridium difficule and don’t experience any problem with it. It is kept in check by the normal “good” bacteria of the intestine.

However, when you take an antibiotic, some of the “good” bacteria die causing the Clostridium difficile bacteria to multiply and you may get an infection in your large intestine.

What are the symptoms of Clostridium difficile?

If you become infected with Clostridium difficile you may get diarrhoea, which has a very unpleasent smell. You may also suffer from stomach cramps, fever, nausea and loss of appetite. Most people only get mildly ill and recover fully from it. However, in certain circumstances you may get seriously ill and develop colitis (inflammation of the bowel). If the colitis is severe it can be life threatening.

What happens if I have Clostridium difficile diarrhoea while I’m in hospital?

In other hospitals you would be moved to a single room with your own private en-suite facilities to prevent spread through shared use of toilet facilities. However, this does not apply in Blackrock Clinic since every in-patient room is for individual use.

In addition, you must make sure to wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before meals. Staff looking after you will wear aprons and gloves and wash their hands after caring for you.

For more information on Clostridium Difficile, please click here: Patient Information Leaflet.

Clostridium difficile, sometimes called C. diff, can cause symptoms from diarrhoea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Usually it affects older adults in hospitals or in long-term care facilities and typically occurs after use of antibiotic medications.

The Clostridium difficilebacteria is contained in faeces. Any surface, device, or material that becomes contaminated with fecal material may host the Clostridium difficile spores. These may be transferred to patients mainly via the hands of healthcare personnel who have touched a contaminated surface or item. Clostridium difficile can live for long periods on surfaces.

In recent years, C. difficile infections have become more frequent, more severe and more difficult to treat. Mild illness caused by C. difficile may get better if you stop taking antibiotics. Severe symptoms require treatment with a different antibiotic.

Incidences of C. Diff are proportionally very low at Blackrock Clinic.

Incidences of C diff showed an anticipated increase following the opening of the new Emergency Department where we now receive acute patient admissions.  This particular group of patients is at increased risk of having or developing C-diff and thus this cohort of patients has a significant impact on the figures.

Due to this highly at-risk group of patients, Blackrock Clinic is particularly focused on its hand hygiene and other related infection prevention initiatives to ensure C-diff is carefully controlled.

In this context it is particularly important that all in-patients rooms at Blackrock Clinic are individual and not shared.

For further information, please visit the Health Protection Surveillance Centre web site:  https://www.hpsc.ie/