Three Ways You Can Help Fight C. Diff Infections

Written by Carol Uher

It’s made the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of top emerging infections, with 500,000 cases in a year and 15,000 deaths.

It’s transferred by dirty hands and can cause bouts of deadly diarrhea.

And it isn’t killed by hand sanitizers.

Clostridium difficile infections, better known as C. diff infections, are on the rise nationwide and here in our communities. We’re taking bold steps to fight it, but with more and more cases occurring outside the hospital, we need your help, too.

We’re working to support patients, their families and visitors in reducing the spread of C.diff infections.

How you can help stop C. diff

C. diff is a naturally occurring bacteria in the digestive tract. Typically kept in check by our bodies, it causes no harm. But under certain conditions, it can cause an infection with serious, sometimes fatal, results.

Fortunately, C.diff infections can be prevented. Here are three ways you can help stop its spread.

1. Wash your hands the right way

Since hand sanitizers do not kill C. diff, the answer is simple: wash your hands. Proper hand washing is one of the best ways to reduce C. diff infections.

Wash before and after eating, visiting a patient, seeing the doctor or using the restroom. Be sure to wash thoroughly with soap and warm, not hot, water for at least 15 seconds to ensure your hands are clean.

C. diff is a survivor in the environment—it’s hearty and can last for months. It’s something you only remove from your hands using soap and water. 

2. Protect yourself while visiting

We follow proper isolation procedures when caring for hospital patients with C. diff, and patients can still welcome visitors. However, protecting yourself when visiting is critical. Check with the nurse for instructions before entering the room and use the nearby hand washing sink or hand sanitizer dispenser to clean your hands.

Even if you don’t touch the patient, you are at risk for transmission. It’s important to wear the gloves and gowns and to wear them properly if assisting with patient care.

When your visit is over, clean your hands with soap and water before leaving the room.

3. Consider alternatives to antibiotics

While taking antibiotics makes us feel better faster when we’re sick, the overuse of them is creating collective problems—including the rise of C. diff.

Antibiotic use, even when appropriate, reduces the good bacteria in your digestive tract, allowing C. diff bacteria to flourish. Vulnerable patients put themselves at risk of infection, while others risk becoming carriers of the bacteria while on antibiotics.

Talk with your doctor about options other than antibiotics the next time you’re sick.

Carol UherCarol Uher, system program director of Infection Prevention, Fairview, has more than 20 years of infection prevention experience across all care settings, including acute, ambulatory and long-term care and homecare/hospice. Carol works with teams across Fairview to help reduce and prevent the spread of infection.

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