​Clostridium difficile

What is it?

  • Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is a germ that can cause diarrhea
  • It is commonly seen in hospital environments on things such as bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures, and medical equipment

Signs and Symptoms

  • Some people may have the bacteria but not be sick from it.
  • If a person does get sick from it, they may have: watery diarrhea; fever; loss of appetite; belly pain

How do you get it?

  • C. diff diarrhea affects people with frequent hospital stays, taking long term antibiotics
  • The elderly and people with underlying long term illness are at highest risk
  • This germ comes from the intestinal tract of people and can spread person-to-person through direct contact, and on shared objects


  • There are antibiotics to treat this bacteria that your doctor can prescribe


  • In severe cases people will need hospitalization and special treatment


  • Taking antibiotics only when you need them and making sure to finish them

  • In health care settings: follow direction of staff when visiting someone with a C. diff infection

 What to do at home

  • Family members that help with direct care should wash hands before and after providing care
  • Direct Care is defined as bathing, changing clothes/diapers, dressing changes, care of open wounds/lesions, toileting, feeding. Pushing a wheelchair or bringing a tray of food to someone is not direct care
  • If possible, dedicate one washroom for the person with C. difficile

Hand washing

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds:

  • After using the toilet
  • After touching dirty surfaces
  • Before preparing meals
  • Before eating

Cleaning the house

Regular cleaning removes C. difficile spores. Use an all-purpose cleaner. Follow the directions on the label.

  • Wet the surface well and scrub. Pay special attention to areas that may be soiled with feces such as the toilet and sink
  • Bleach and water may be used as a disinfectant if washroom is shared. Mix daily 
    1 part of bleach with 9 parts water. After washing and rinsing the area, use this solution on all hard surfaces of the washroom and allow it to air dry. Never mix bleach with other chemicals.

Cleaning clothes/other fabrics

Wash clothes/fabrics separately if they are heavily soiled with feces:

  • Rinse off feces; wash hands afterward
  • Clean in a hot water cycle with laundry detergent
  • Dry items in the dryer on high heat, if possible; dry clean where appropriate

Cleaning dishes

  •  Regular cleaning- use the dishwasher or clean by hand with soap and water

C. difficile is reportable to the Medical Officer of Health only as a hospital outbreak.