C. difficile

is a common healthcare-associated infection (HAI) that causes almost 250,000 people to require hospital care and approximately 14,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.



C. difficile is a bacteria that can cause life-threatening diarrhea and is now the most common cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals.

It occurs mainly in patients in a hospital or other healthcare setting, such as a nursing home, who have also recently taken antibiotics. Beneficial bacteria are normally present in the colon, but antibiotics can destroy these good bacteria that help protect against infection – leaving patients vulnerable. During this time, patients can become infected with C. difficile from contaminated surfaces or spread person to person. Signs of an infection include watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, belly pain and tenderness. The infection may return in approximately 25 percent of patients.

A concern for older Americans

Older Americans are especially vulnerable to C. difficile. More than 80 percent of the deaths associated with C. difficile infection occurred among Americans aged 65 years or older.

Help prevent C. difficile infections

C. difficile infections can be reduced by using infection control practices:

Take antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor and complete the prescribed course of treatment.

Make sure that all doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers clean their hands before and after caring for you.

Be sure to wash your own hands often, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.

What is an HAI?

HAIs or healthcare-associated infections affect patients in a hospital or other health-care facility, and are not present or incubating at the time of admission. They also include infections acquired by patients in the hospital or facility but appearing after discharge, and occupational infections among staff.