Clostridium difficile

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Clostridium difficile is a bacteria which cancause a diarrheal illness. It is commonly associated with antibiotic use and healthcare facilities. Most people who come into contact with Clostridium difficile do not develop disease. Clostridium difficile is not currently a reportable disease in Arizona.

Recently, a University of Arizona veterinary microbiology researcher has found Clostridium difficile on processed meats bought in Tucson area grocery stores. Some of the bacteria from these meats are a new strain identified in North America that can cause more severe disease. We do not yet know the significance of finding this organism on meat. Arizona Department of Health Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the University of Arizona Veterinary Microbiology Department are working together to determine if the strains found on the meat are causing human disease here in Arizona.

At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that C. difficile disease is caused by contaminated food.

Questions & Answers about Clostridium difficile

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What is Clostridium difficile?

C. difficile is a bacterium that causes diarrhea and can cause more serious intestinal conditions such as inflammation or injury to the large intestine which can lead to blood infection and death.

What are the symptoms of Clostridium difficile disease?

Symptoms include watery diarrhea (at least three bowel movements per day for two or more days), fever, loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal pain/tenderness. However, not everyone who is exposed to the disease has symptoms.

Who gets the disease?

People in good health usually don't get C. difficile disease. The highest risk for disease is in people who have been taking antibiotics for a long time for other illnesses or conditions.

What is new about this organism?

A new strain has been discovered in North America in the last year which may have up to 17% mortality. Clostridium difficile was previously considered a healthcare-associated disease. Recently, however, community-associated disease in people who have not received antibiotics has been reported.

Where is this bacteria found?

The bacteria are found in the feces of people and animals.

How do people get an infection?

People can become infected if they touch items or surfaces that are contaminated with feces and then touch their mouth or mucous membranes. Healthcare workers can spread the bacteria to other patients or contaminate surfaces through hand contact.

How can I prevent this infection?

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. Hand sanitizers DO NOT kill C. difficile.
  • Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics.
  • Informational pamphlets

Information for the General Public

Information for Healthcare Providers

Additional Resources