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Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is an important cause of infectious disease death in the United States. C. difficile was estimated to cause almost half a million infections in the United States in 2011. Approximately 83,000 of the patients who developed C. difficile experienced at least one recurrence and 29,000 died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis.

Poor prescribing practices put patients at risk for C. difficile infections. More than half of all hospitalized patients will get an antibiotic at some point during their hospital stay, but studies have shown that 30-50% of antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary or incorrect.

C. difficile infections can be prevented by using infection control recommendations and more careful antibiotic use.

Fact Sheet

Frequently Asked Questions

Guidelines and Recommendations

Healthcare Providers Can

  • Prescribe and use antibiotics carefully. Once culture results are available, check whether the prescribed antibiotics are correct and necessary.
  • Order a C. difficile test if the patient has had three or more unformed stools within 24 hours.
  • Isolate patients with C. difficile immediately.
  • Wear gloves and gowns when treating patients with C. difficile, even during short visits. Hand sanitizer does not kill C. difficile, and although hand washing works better, it still may not be sufficient alone, thus the importance of gloves.
  • Clean room surfaces thoroughly on a daily basis while treating a patient with C. difficile and upon patient discharge or transfer. Supplement cleaning as needed with use of bleach or another EPA-approved, spore-killing disinfectant.
  • When a patient transfers, notify the new facility if the patient has a C. difficile infection.

CDC Expert Commentaries

Dr. Nimalie StoneCore Elements of Antibiotic Stewardship for Nursing Homes
Dr. Nimalie Stone talks about antimicrobial stewardship in nursing homes. Improving the use of antibiotics to protect patients and reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance as a national priority.

Dr. Nimalie StoneDying From C diff: Who Is Most Vulnerable?
Dr. Nimalie Stone talks about a new study that indicates that the risks for C. difficile infection and death increase with age in every setting.

Dr. Carolyn GouldTesting for Clostridium difficile Infection
Dr. Carolyn Gould talks about which patients should be tested for C. difficile, which testing methods are appropriate, and one thing you should not do.

Refining Our Approach to Clostridium difficile Prevention

C difficile: Success in Prevention

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Prevention Tools

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