How Contagious is C diff?
C diff is not contagious in the normal sense where you can get it from someone with an active C diff infection. You have to consume C diff spores and have compromised gut flora. C diff is most often associated with antibiotic usage because antibiotics wipe out existing gut flora. However, C diff can occur in 5-10% of patients without antibiotic usage.2
How does C diff Spread?
You can become colonized by C diff by consuming C diff spores which are spread through contact with fecal matter or contact with a contaminated object, including phones, door handles, and keyboards. C diff spores are extremely resilient and cannot be killed by using alcohol rubs. Bleach solutions can be used to disinfect C diff spores. C diff spores can survive for up to 5 months.3
A person usually gets a C diff infection after taking antibiotics. How?
Many healthy people have C diff in their digestive tract. However, after taking antibiotics, C diff can multiply and cause problems. Antibiotics do not discriminate between good and bad bacteria, killing off a lot of the normal gut flora that kept Clostridium difficile bacteria in check. When the antibiotics kill off the good bacteria, C diff can multiply and take over the gut, which lead to many health problems.
The good news is that even if the C diff bacteria colonize your gut they have to increase rapidly in order to actually cause any symptoms or problems. Generally, as long as your immune system is functioning properly and you do not take any antibiotics, your body should be able to fight off C diff and prevent a full on infection.
However, people who have a harder time resisting the bacteria include:
- Those with chronic diseases that weaken the immune system
- The elderly
- Individuals who have been hospitalized
C diff spreads particularly well in nursing homes, which often have the highest concentrations of the bacteria because of the large number of patients treated with antibiotics.
How Long Does it Take to Recover from C diff?
Treatments with antibiotics usually take about 10 to 14 days, though severe infections with C diff may require intravenous antibiotics or surgery. Usually, a person is considered not contagious once all of their symptoms have subsided and doctors can detect little or no toxin in the patient’s stools. It can be hard to say for sure when C diff becomes completely non-contagious as someone who has been previously infected can have reoccurring C. diff. About 25% of patients treated for C diff have a reoccurrence within 30 days.1
To help with recovery, consider taking probiotics with antibiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that make up the normal gut flora. Furthermore, probiotics containing S boulardii such as Nexabiotic Advanced can help lower chances of C diff reoccurrence.
How to Avoid Spreading C. difficile:
1. Question: Ask your doctor if it is okay to take probiotics with your antibiotics.
2. Test: If you have severe diarrhea and recently took antibiotics, consult with your physician to get tested right away.
3. Isolate: Patients with C. difficile should be put on isolation precautions to prevent the spread of infection.
4. Protect: Wear proper personal protective equipment such as gloves around patients with C. difficile. If you are in contact with a patient with C. difficile, you may be contaminated with spores on your clothes and other belongings. Therefore, personal items should be put into a plastic bag while in the room. Before leaving the room, remember to wash your hands thoroughly to prevent spreading the bacteria. Remember that hand sanitizer doesn't kill C. difficile.
5. Decontaminate: Disinfect C. difficile patient room and bathroom surfaces with bleach.
6. Balance: Take a reputable a high quality multi-probiotic with a variety of strains. Ensure that it has the probiotic S. boulardii
Next article: The Best Diet for a Faster Recovery from C diff
- David A. Burns, John T. Heap, Nigel P. Minton. “Clostridium difficile spore germination: an update”. Research in Microbiology. Volume 161, Issue 9. 2010. 730–734.