Public Health Agency of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Share this page

Clostridium Difficile Infection

Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Management in Acute Care Settings

The Public Health Agency of Canada has developed this document to provide infection prevention and control guidance to healthcare organizations and healthcare workersFootnote a for the management of patients with Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection in acute care settingsFootnote b. The content of this guidance document has been informed by technical advice provided by members of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Steering Committee on Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines.

This guidance is meant to be used in conjunction with relevant provincial/territorial and local legislation, regulations, and organizational policies. The recommendations are based on current, scientific evidence and best practices, and are subject to review and change as new information becomes available.

Description

Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is a Gram positive, spore-forming, anaerobic bacillus that causes infectious diarrhea by producing two toxins - toxin A (an enterotoxin) and toxin B (a cytotoxin).Footnote 1 C. difficile is the most frequent cause of healthcare-associated infectious diarrhea in Canada and other developed countries.Footnote 2,Footnote 3

The reported incidence of healthcare-associated C. difficile infection in Canada has risen over the last decade and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.Footnote 4 C. difficile infection can have a variety of manifestations from uncomplicated diarrhea to life-threatening pseudomembranous colitis,Footnote 3 bowel perforation and sepsis.Footnote 5 There has been an almost four-fold increase in the C. difficile infection attributable mortality rate in Canadian hospitals from 1997 to 2005 (1.5% of cases to 5.7%, respectively, p<.001).Footnote 4 There are multiple reasons behind the increase in C. difficile infection and C. difficile infection-related mortality rates in Canada but an important contributor has been the spread of a more virulent strain, often referred to as North American pulsed field (NAP) type 1.Footnote 6

The primary mode of transmission for C. difficile within healthcare facilities is by person-to-person spread through the fecal-oral route.Footnote 7 The hands of healthcare workers transiently contaminated with C. difficile spores, along with environmental contamination play an important role in the transmission of C. difficile in healthcare settings.Footnote 8-Footnote 10 Compared to other healthcare-associated bacterial pathogens, environmental contamination around a C. difficile infection patient is thought to be a relatively more significant factor in cross-transmission to others. This is because C. difficile, being a spore-forming microorganism, persists in the environment longer and resists routine disinfection processes more than non-spore forming bacteria.

The degree to which C. difficile infection is endemic within a healthcare facility is variable. Those responsible for infection prevention and control within a facility should be aware of C. difficile infection epidemiology within their organization and gauge their response accordingly.Footnote 11 Consistent and correct application of infection prevention and control measures has proven effective in reducing the incidence of healthcare-associated C. difficile infection.Footnote 12,Footnote 13

As C. difficile infection is strongly associated with previous antibiotic use, antimicrobial stewardship is believed to have a role in preventing and terminating C. difficile infection outbreaks.Footnote 14,Footnote 15 While this guidance document is focused on infection prevention and control measures to prevent C. difficile infection in acute care settings, it should be acknowledged that the prevention of C. difficile infection also requires appropriate use of antimicrobial therapy (i.e., antimicrobial stewardship). Infection control professionals should advocate for both effective infection prevention and control and antimicrobial stewardship programs as important strategies to prevent C. difficile infection within their organizations.

Recommended Infections Prevention and Control Measures

The following guidance is based primarily on recommendations in the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Routine Practices and Additional Precautions for Preventing the Transmission of Infection in Health Care Settings guideline,Footnote 16 except where indicated.

In addition to routine practices, patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection in acute care settings should be placed on Contact Precautions. A point-of-care risk assessment approach (Appendix A) should be used to guide decisions regarding when to apply contact precautions.

The following topics are addressed in more detail in this document:

  1. Organizational Controls
    1. Engineering Measures
    2. Administrative Measures
  2. Triage
  3. Assessment
  4. Surveillance
  5. Laboratory Testing/Reporting
  6. Contact Precautions
  7. Personnel Restrictions
  8. Hand Hygiene
  9. Patient Placement and Accommodation
  10. Patient Flow/Activities
  11. Personal Protective Equipment
  12. Management of Fecal Matter
  13. Cleaning and Disinfection of Non-critical Patient Care Equipment
  14. Environmental Cleaning
  15. Handling Linen, Dishes, Cutlery
  16. Duration of Precautions
  17. Handling Deceased Bodies
  18. Education of Healthcare Workers, Patients, Families, Visitors
  19. Visitor Management
  20. Discharge Planning
  21. Outbreak Management

1. Organizational Controls

A major role of all healthcare organizations is to minimize the risk of exposure to and transmission of infections within healthcare settings. This can be achieved by having policies, procedures and programs specifically for the prevention of C. difficile infection based on the following engineering and administrative measures.

a) Engineering Measures

  1. Facility design should include single rooms for the routine care of inpatients (with in-room private toilets, designated patient sinks, alcohol-based hand rub dispensers and designated staff hand washing sinks).
  2. Facility design should include surfaces that are constructed of materials that can be easily and effectively cleaned at the point of use.
  3. Appropriate number of bedpans and commodes should be available.
  4. To avoid contamination of the environment with C. difficile spores, systems should be in place to manage the disposal of fecal matter when bedpans or commodes are required. Some options for consideration are:
    • Installation of bedpan washers/disinfector systemsFootnote c on patient units;
    • Utilization of disposable bedpans for patients with acute diarrhea and the installation of macerator systems for the disposable bedpans.
    • Appropriate supply of and accessibility to personal protective equipment should be available.
  5. Appropriate number of accessible no-touch waste receptacles for disposal of paper towels, tissues, gloves, etc. should be available.
  6. Appropriately functioning, accessible dispensers for hand hygiene products (soap, lotion, paper towels and alcohol-based hand rub) should be available.
  7. Appropriate number of designated staff hand washing sinks should be available.
  8. Appropriate number of point-of-care alcohol-based hand rub dispensers should be installed.
  9. If laundry chutes are used, they should be properly designed, maintained and used in a manner to minimize dispersion of aerosols from contaminated laundry.

b) Administrative Measures

  1. Policies and procedures should be developed and implemented for the prevention and control of C. difficile infection, including the application of contact precautions, and outbreak recognition, reporting and management.
  2. Sufficient expert human capital (e.g., hospital epidemiologist, infection control professionals) and financial allocation to ensure an effective infection prevention and control program appropriate to the organization’s mandate should be provided.
  3. Infection control professionals or delegates should be actively involved in the selection of new patient care equipment and devices that require cleaning, disinfection and/or sterilization.
  4. Policies and procedures should be developed and implemented for environmental cleaning to ensure sufficient staffing, routine scheduled environmental cleaning, procedures for assigning responsibility and accountability for cleaning as indicated by the level of patient contact and degree of soiling, and include event-related cleaning of environmental surfaces and increased cleaning as per additional precautions.
  5. Education and training programs should be developed and implemented for those responsible for environmental cleaning. Evaluation of policies, procedures and practices, including audits, should be performed to determine effectiveness of environmental cleaning and cleaning practices.
  6. Policies and procedures, including assigning responsibility, should be developed and implemented for cleaning and disinfection of all non-critical patient care items (e.g., mobile devices, multi-use electronics, intravenous poles, toys and electronic games, etc.) that are and are not moved in and out of patient care areas.
  7. A facility-wide, adequately resourced antimicrobial stewardship program should be established.
  8. Monitoring, auditing and reporting of hand hygiene compliance and environmental cleaning procedures should be established.
  9. A surveillance system should be established that includes systematic collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of C. difficile infection rates by unit in the facility (refer to item 4, Surveillance).

2. Triage - Emergency Departments and Acute Assessment Settings

Patients with an acute diarrheal illness should be placed into a single examining room with a dedicated toilet or commode whenever possible and as soon as possible.

3. Assessment

  1. Patients with diarrhea or other symptoms (e.g., nausea ± vomiting, fever, abdominal pain/tenderness) suspected to be C. difficile infection should be assessed in a timely manner. A stool specimen should be taken for laboratory testing for C. difficile (refer to item 5, Laboratory Testing/Reporting), and the patient placed on contact precautions (refer to item 6, Contact Precautions).
  2. Clinical assessment of symptomatic patients and, where necessary, initiation of antimicrobial therapy according to clinical practice guidelines, should occur promptly.
  3. Asymptomatic patients should not be tested for C. difficile.
  4. Routine environmental testing for C. difficile is not useful and should not be done.
  5. Testing of asymptomatic staff is not advisable. Symptomatic staff should be referred to the organization’s occupational health and safety personnel or their personal physician for evaluation.

4. Surveillance

  1. A system should be established for the early reporting of symptomatic patients to the organization’s infection control professional or delegate.
  2. A system should be established for early notification of all patients testing positive for C. difficile to the infection control professional or delegate.
  3. Prospective surveillance using accepted C. difficile infection case definitions and denominatorsFootnote 17 should be established to determine the organization’s baseline rate and to monitor changes in the C. difficile infection rate. By adopting a recognized provincial or national case definition (i.e., the Canadian Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program,Footnote 4 Case Definitions for Communicable Diseases under National Surveillance,Footnote 18 Case Definition and Minimum Data Set for the Surveillance of Clostridium difficile Infection in Acute Care Hospitals across CanadaFootnote 19) organizations will be able to benchmark their C. difficile infection and C. difficile infection-related mortality rate against other Canadian facilities.

5. Laboratory Testing/Reporting

  1. A variety of tests are available to identify C. difficile or its toxins in the stools of patients with diarrhea. These tests vary significantly in sensitivity. Infection control professionals should review local testing methods and algorithms with their clinical or medical microbiologist. If increased C. difficile infection rates are observed, it is important to ensure that they are not an artifact of increased case detection resulting from adoption of new test methods or algorithms.
  2. A protocol and provisions for testing for C. difficile infection should be established.
  3. Stool specimen collection for the testing of C. difficile or its toxins should be done as soon as possible after onset of diarrhea.Footnote 3
  4. A process should be established for prompt notification of all positive tests to the attending physician and infection control professional or delegate, as well as regional, provincial/territorial public health authorities as required.
  5. When test methods of lower sensitivity are performed (e.g., enzyme-linked immunoassays) a single negative test for patients with acute diarrhea should not be relied on to rule out C. difficile.Footnote 20 If the first test is negative, a second test may be indicated.
  6. Testing for C. difficile or its toxins should only be performed on unformed, diarrheal stool (i.e. loose, watery stool).Footnote 3
  7. Repeat testing during the same episode of diarrhea or follow-up for “test of cure” should not be done.Footnote 3
  8. Testing of infants under one year of age should not be done as they are not susceptible to C. difficile infection.Footnote 21,Footnote 22

6. Contact Precautions

  1. Contact precautions should be implemented empirically, at onset of diarrhea, for patients with acute diarrhea, suspected or confirmed to be C. difficile infection, and not otherwise explained.
  2. Patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should be placed on contact precautions, preferably in a single room, until the diarrhea is resolved or its cause is determined not to be infectious (refer to item 9, Patient Placement and Accommodation).
  3. If availability of single rooms is limited, preference for single rooms should be given to patients with uncontrolled diarrhea/fecal incontinence.Footnote 21
  4. Cohorting of multiple laboratory confirmed patients is acceptable.
  5. Signage should be placed at the entrance to the patient’s room, cubicle, designated bedspace or other visible location to identify contact precautions.
  6. Refer to items below for further details relating to contact precautions.

7. Personnel Restrictions

  1. Healthcare workers should stay away from work when infectious with a communicable disease, including, but not limited to, gastroenteritis with vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  2. The immediate supervisor/occupational health personnel should be informed if the healthcare worker worked when symptomatic/infectious.

8. Hand Hygiene

  1. Hand hygiene should be performed frequently using effective techniques (as recommended in the Public Health Agency of Canada Hand Hygiene Practices in Health Care Settings guidelineFootnote 23) and include:
    1. After patient care;
    2. After contact with the patient’s environment;
    3. After removing gloves at point-of-care and just prior to leaving the patient’s room, cubicle or designated bedspace;
    4. After handling fecal matter; and
    5. After handling bedpans and commodes.
  2. Soap and water in preference to ABHR should be used in settings with C. difficile infection transmission and during C. difficile infection outbreaks, for the physical and mechanical removal of spores (refer to item 21, Outbreak Management).
  3. Hand hygiene with soap and water should be performed at the point-of-care and at a designated staff hand washing sink. If a designated staff hand washing sink is not available at the point-of-care, alcohol-based hand rub (with an alcohol concentration between 60% and 90%) should be used and hand hygiene with soap and water should be performed as soon as a staff hand washing sink is available.
  4. Hand wipes (impregnated with plain soap, antimicrobials, or alcohol) may be used as an alternative to soap and water when a designated staff hand washing sink is not immediately available, or when the hand washing sink is unsuitable (e.g., contaminated sink, no running water, no soap), for the following conditions:
    1. When hands are not visibly soiled; and
    2. When hands are visibly soiled. Alcohol-based hand rub should be used after the use of hand wipes, and hands should be washed with soap and water once a suitable staff hand washing sink is available.

9. Patient Placement and Accommodation

  1. Patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should be placed into a single room with a private toilet (or designated commode if there is no toilet in the room) and a designated patient sink.
  2. The room door may remain open.
  3. When single patient rooms are limited, a point-of-care risk assessment (Appendix A) should be performed to determine patient placement and/or suitability for cohorting.
  4. Only patients with laboratory-confirmed C. difficile infection should be cohorted, however, each patient should have a designated toilet or commode assigned. In a shared room, a patient with diarrhea should not share a toilet with another patient. A dedicated toilet or commode should be assigned to each individual patient with diarrhea. Roommates should be selected on their ability and their visitors’ ability to comply with the necessary precautions.
  5. The infection control professional or delegate should be consulted when cohorting is considered.
  6. If cohorting of patients with confirmed diagnosis of C. difficile infection is not possible and a cubicle or designated bedspace is used in a shared room, privacy curtains should be drawn between beds at all times, and a designated commode provided.
  7. Infection control signage should be placed at the entrance to the patient’s room, cubicle or designated bedspace indicating contact precautions are required upon entry.
  8. The chart/record of the patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should not be taken into the patient’s room, cubicle or designated bedspace.

10. Patient Flow/Activities

  1. The symptomatic patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should be allowed out of the room only as indicated in the care plan, providing diarrhea can be contained and hand hygiene compliance is adequate.
  2. The patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should be provided with clean clothes and should perform hand hygiene, with supervision/assistance as necessary, before leaving the room.
  3. Instructions/assistance with hand hygiene should be provided to patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection after using the toilet facilities and prior to leaving their room.
  4. If diarrhea cannot be contained and/or if hand hygiene compliance is inadequate, patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should be restricted to their room until:
    1. Diarrhea has resolved; or
    2. Diarrhea can be contained; or
    3. Hand hygiene compliance is adequate.
  5. Transfer of patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection within and between facilities should be avoided unless medically indicated (e.g., for essential diagnostic and therapeutic tests/treatment). If a medically indicated transfer is necessary:
    1. The transferring service, receiving unit, or facility should be advised of the necessary precautions for the patient being transported;
    2. A request to have the patient promptly seen to minimize time in waiting areas should be considered;
    3. The patient should be provided with clean clothes and bedding as necessary, diarrhea should be contained (i.e., with incontinent products) as necessary, and instruction/assistance with performing hand hygiene should be provided;
    4. The transport personnel should remove and dispose of their personal protective equipment (refer to item 11, Personal Protective Equipment) and perform hand hygiene prior to transporting patients; and
    5. The transport personnel should put on clean personal protective equipment, if necessary (refer to item 11, Personal Protective Equipment), to handle the patient during transport and at the transport destination.

11. Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment for contact precautions should be provided outside the room, cubicle or designated bedspace (or when available, in the anteroom) of the patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection. Healthcare workers, families and visitors should use the following personal protective equipment for patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection:

  1. Gloves
    1. Gloves should be worn to enter the patient’s room, cubicle or designated bedspace during the care of the patient and for contact with the patient’s environment;
    2. Gloves should be removed and discarded into a no-touch waste receptacle and hand hygiene (refer to item 8, Hand Hygiene) should be performed upon exiting the patient’s room, cubicle or designated bedspace.
  2. Gowns
    1. A long-sleeved gown should be worn if it is anticipated that clothing or forearms will be in direct contact with the patient or with environmental surfaces or objects in the patient care environment;
    2. If a gown is to be worn it should be put on before entering the room, cubicle or designated bedspace. The gown should be removed and discarded into a no-touch receptacle immediately after the indication for use and hand hygiene should be performed before leaving the patient’s environment.

The same personal protective equipment should not be worn for more than one patient. Personal protective equipment should be changed and hand hygiene should be performed between contacts with each patient in the same room.

12. Management of Fecal Matter

  1. When bedpans and commodes are required:
    1. Bedpans and commodes should be handled in such a way as to avoid contamination of the environment with C. difficile spores;
    2. Disposable bedpans should be considered; and
    3. Spray wands for cleaning bedpans and commode pans/buckets should not be used.
  2. Toilet bowl brushes should be dedicated to one specific toilet and not be reused. Disposable toilet bowl brushes should be considered.

13. Cleaning and Disinfection of Non-critical Patient Care Equipment

  1. All equipment/supplies should be identified and stored in a manner that prevents use by or for other patients.
  2. Reusable non-critical equipment (blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, pulse oximeters, commodes, bedpans, walkers, etc.) should be dedicated to the use of the patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection, and should be cleaned and disinfected (with a chlorine-containing cleaning agent (at least 1,000 parts per million [ppm]) or other sporicidal agent before reuse with another patient.Footnote 21
  3. Electronic rectal thermometers should not be used.
  4. Single-use devices should be discarded in a no-touch waste receptacle after use.
  5. Toys, electronic games, personal effects, etc. should be dedicated to the use of the patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection, and should be cleaned and disinfected before reuse by another patient.

14. Environmental Cleaning

  1. All horizontal and frequently touched surfaces in the room, cubicle or designated bedspace of the patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should be cleaned at least twice daily and when soiled, paying particular attention to “high touch” areas/items (patient bathroom, bathing facilities, toilet/commode/bedpan, light switches, light cords, bed/hand rails, bedside tables and other furniture, wheelchair, walker, etc.).
  2. Measures should be taken to limit contamination of cleaning and disinfecting solutions by changing cleaning cloths and mop heads frequently.Footnote 21
  3. During continued transmission of C. difficile infection, the rooms or bedspace of patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection should be decontaminated and cleaned with a chlorine-containing cleaning agent (at least 1,000 parts per million [ppm]) or other sporicidal agent.
  4. Additional cleaning measures or frequency may be warranted in outbreak situations (refer to item 22, Outbreak Management), or when there is continued transmission of C. difficile infection.
  5. When the patient suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection is moved to a single room at the onset of acute diarrhea, or transferred out of the room for other reasons, or when contact precautions are discontinued, terminal cleaning of the room, cubicle or designated bedspace and bathroom, changing the privacy curtains, discarding the toilet bowl brush, and cleaning and disinfecting, or changing the string/cloth call bells or light cords should be done (refer to Routine Practices and Additional Precautions for Preventing the Transmission of Infection in Healthcare Settings guideline, Appendix VIIFootnote 16, for details on terminal cleaning).
  6. Contact precautions should be maintained until terminal cleaning of the room, cubicle or designated bedspace is completed.

15. Handling Linen, Dishes, Cutlery

  1. No special precautions are required for linen; routine practices are sufficient and include the following:
    1. Soiled linen should be handled in the same way for all patients without regard to their infection status;
    2. Soiled linen should be placed in a no-touch receptacle at the point of use;
    3. Soiled linen should be handled with a minimum of agitation to avoid contamination of air, surfaces and persons;
    4. Soiled linen should be sorted and rinsed outside of patient care areas; and
    5. Heavily soiled linen should be rolled or folded to contain the heaviest soil in the centre of the bundle. Solid fecal matter that can be removed using a gloved hand and toilet tissue should be placed into a bedpan or toilet for flushing.
  2. No special precautions are required for dishes or cutlery; routine practices are sufficient.

16. Duration of Precautions

  1. Contact precautions should be maintained until:
    1. C. difficile infection is ruled out, and/or diarrhea is determined as not infectious; or
    2. If C. difficile infection is confirmed, until diarrhea has resolvedFootnote d; or
    3. According to provincial/territorial guidelines or the organization’s policy.
  2. Discontinuation of contact precautions should be made in conjunction with the infection control professional or delegate.

17. Handling Deceased Bodies

  1. Routine practices, properly and consistently applied, should be used in addition to contact precautions for handling deceased bodies, preparing them for autopsy, or transferring them to mortuary services.
  2. Provincial/territorial specified communicable disease regulations should be followed.

18. Education of Healthcare Workers, Patients, Families, Visitors

  1. Healthcare Workers
    1. All healthcare workers should receive education on C. difficile, including measures to control its spread and on their role in identifying and acting on new onset diarrhea; and
    2. Education should reinforce that routine practices, contact precautions, and safe work practices, (e.g., no eating or drinking in patient care areas) protect healthcare workers from acquiring C. difficile infection in the healthcare setting.
  2. Patients, Families, Visitors
    1. Patients, families, and visitors should be educated about the precautions being used; the duration of precautions, as well as the prevention of transmission of infection to others, with a particular focus on hand hygiene;
    2. Families and visitors who are participating in direct patient care should be instructed about the indications for and appropriate use of personal protective equipment; and
    3. Families and visitors who assist with patient care should use personal protective equipment as healthcare workers. This may not be necessary for parents carrying out their usual care of young children.

19. Visitor Management

  1. Visitors should be instructed to speak with a nurse before entering the room, cubicle or designated bedspace of a patient on contact precautions to evaluate the risk to the health of the visitor and the ability of the visitor to comply with precautions.
  2. The number of visitors for a patient on contact precautions should be minimized to essential visitors (e.g., immediate family member/parent, guardian or primary caretaker) only.
  3. Visitors should be restricted to visiting only one patient who is on contact precautions. If the visitor must visit more than one patient, the visitor should be instructed to use personal protective equipment as healthcare workers and perform hand hygiene before going to the next patient’s room, cubicle or designated bedspace.

20. Discharge Planning

In preparing patients with C. difficile infection or recovering from C. difficile infection for discharge, the patients should be provided with information/education about the following:

  1. Any medications they are to take at home;
  2. Reminders on the importance of washing their hands with soap and water after using the toilet, handling used linen, and before preparing and/or eating food;
  3. That special handling of dishes, bed linen and waste is not necessary (whether symptomatic or not). Solid fecal matter that can be removed using a gloved hand and toilet tissue should be placed into a bedpan or toilet for flushing;
  4. The frequency of recurrence of C. difficile infection; and
  5. Notifying their physician if acute diarrheal symptoms recur.

21. Outbreak Management

  1. When there is evidence of continued transmission of C. difficile within a facility or when the incidence rate for C. difficile is higher than the facility’s baseline rate, the following heightened measures should be considered:
    1. Placing signage at entrances to the affected unit(s) to direct families and visitors;
    2. Placing all patients with acute diarrhea on contact precautions;
    3. Reporting the outbreak to local public health officials as per regional, provincial/territorial reporting requirements;
    4. Decontaminating and cleaning rooms, cubicles or designated bedspaces of patients suspected or confirmed to have C. difficile infection with a chlorine-containing cleaning agent (at least 1,000 parts per million [ppm]) or other sporicidal agent;
    5. Increasing the frequency of cleaning, including bathing and toileting facilities, recreational equipment, all horizontal surfaces in the patient’s room and, in particular, areas/items that are frequently touched (hand and bedrails, light cords, light switches, door handles, furniture, etc.), common areas, nursing stations, staff washrooms, etc., on the affected unit(s);
    6. Cohorting of staff to patients (i.e., assigning staff to work exclusively with C. difficile infection-positive patients);
    7. With associated high burden of illness, particularly with higher than expected attributable mortality, there may be a role, in consultation with a microbiologist and public health, to characterize the strain type and clonality of C. difficile isolates;
    8. Auditing adherence to hand hygiene practices (refer to item 10, Hand Hygiene), personal protective equipment use by staff (refer to item 11, Personal Protective Equipment), cleaning/disinfecting shared non-critical equipment (refer to item 13, Cleaning and Disinfection of Non-critical Patient Care Equipment), and environmental cleaning procedures (refer to item 14, Environmental Cleaning);
    9. Reviewing the process for disposal of fecal matter (refer to item 12, Management of Fecal Matter);
    10. Closing affected unit(s) to admissions if initial control measures are ineffective in controlling the spread of C. difficile;
    11. Reviewing antimicrobial prescribing practices, including indications for prescribing and specific agents used. In some settings, it may be helpful to restrict the use of specific antimicrobial agents; and
    12. Consulting provincial/territorial and/or national public health expertise in outbreak management for ongoing outbreak situations.
  2. An outbreak should be declared over when there is no further transmission and there has been a return to the organization’s baseline C. difficile infection rate.

  1. Healthcare workers - Individuals who provide health care or support services, such as nurses, physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, paramedics and sometimes emergency first responders, allied health professionals, unregulated healthcare providers, clinical instructors and students, volunteers and housekeeping staff. Healthcare workers have varying degrees of responsibility related to the health care they provide, depending on their level of education and their specific job/responsibilities.Footnote 16
  2. Acute care settings - A healthcare facility where a variety of inpatient services is provided that may include surgery and intensive care. For the purpose of this document, acute care also includes ambulatory care settings such as hospital emergency departments, and free-standing ambulatory (day) surgery or other day procedures (e.g., endoscopy) centres.Footnote 16
  3. A thorough evaluation on the efficacy of bed pan disinfector systems for use on patient units should be done prior to procurement with a continuous quality improvement process in place for monitoring and evaluating performance.Footnote 24,Footnote 25
  4. An operational definition is suggested by some experts to continue contact precautions for at least 48 hours after diarrhea has resolved as relapse of diarrhea is common. However, there is currently no data to support isolation of asymptomatic patients.Footnote 21

References

Footnote 1
Poxton IR, McCoubrey JM, Blair G. The pathogenicity of Clostridium difficile. Clin Microbiol Infect 2001;7:421-427.
Footnote 2
Dubberke ER, Butler AM, Yokoe DS et al. Multicenter study of surveillance for hospital-onset Clostridium difficile infection by the use of ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2010;21:262-268.
Footnote 3
Poutanen S, Simor AE. Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea in adults. CMAJ 2004;171:51-58.
Footnote 4
Gravel D. Miller M, Simor A, et al. Healthcare-associated Clostridium difficile infection in adults admitted to acute care hospitals in Canada: A Canadian nosocomial infection surveillance program study. Clin Infect Dis 2009;48:568-576.
Footnote 5
Miller MA, Meagan H. Ofner-Agostini M, et al. Morbidity, Mortality, and healthcare burden of nosocomial Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea in Canadian hospitals. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2002;23:137-140.
Footnote 6
Miller M, Gravel D, Mulvey M, et al. Healthcare-associated Clostridium difficile infection in Canada: Patient age and infecting strain type are highly predictive of severe outcome and mortality. Clin Infect Dis 2010;50:194-201.
Footnote 7
Cohen SH, Gerding DN, Johnson S, et al. Clinical practice guidelines for Clostridium difficile infection in adults: 2010 update by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/651706. Accessed July 7, 2011.
Footnote 8
Johnson S, Gerding DN, Olson MM, et al. Prospective, controlled study of vinyl glove use to interrupt Clostridium difficile nosocomial transmission. Am J Med 1990;88:137-140.
Footnote 9
Gerding D, Johnson S, Peterson L, Mulligan M, Silva JJ. Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea and colitis. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 1995;16:459-477.
Footnote 10
Johnson S, Gerding DN. Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. Clin Infect Dis 1998;26:1027-1036.
Footnote 11
Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M. Chiarello L, and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Management of multidrug-resistant organisms in healthcare settings, 2006. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/mdro/mdro_0.html. Accessed on July 28, 2011.
Footnote 12
Kuijper EJ, Coignard B, Tull P. Emergence of Clostridium difficile-associated disease in North America and Europe. Clin Microbiol Infect 2006;12(Suppl 6):2-18.
Footnote 13
Muto CA, Pokrywka M, Shutt K, et al. A large outbreak of Clostridium difficile-associated disease with an unexpected proportion of deaths and colectomies at a teaching hospital following increased fluoroquinolone use. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2005;26:273-280.
Footnote 14
Valiquette L, Cossette B, Garant MP, et al. Impact of a reduction in the use of high-risk antibiotics on the course of an epidemic of Clostridium difficile-associated disease caused by the hypervirulent NAP1/027 strain. Clin Infect Dis 2007;45(Suppl 2):S112-121.
Footnote 15
Pepin J, Saheb N, Coulombe MA, et al. Emergence of fluoroquinolones as the predominant risk factor for Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea: A cohort study during an epidemic in Quebec. Clin Infect Dis 2005;41:1254-1260.
Footnote 16
Public Health Agency of Canada, Routine Practices and Additional Precautions for Preventing the Transmission of Infection in HealthCare Settings. Revised 2012. PHAC release pending.
Footnote 17
McDonald LC, Coignard B, Dubberke E, et al. Recommendations for surveillance of Clostridium difficile-associated disease. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2007;28(2):140-145.
Footnote 18
Public Health Agency of Canada. Case Definitions for Communicable Diseases under National Surveillance - 2009 CCDR Volume 35s2, November 2009. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/09vol35/35s2/index-eng.php
Footnote 19
Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Patient Safety Institute. Case Definition and Minimum Data Set for the Surveillance of Clostridium difficile Infection (CDI) in Acute Care Hospitals across Canada. December 2008.
Footnote 20
Vanpouke H, DeBaere T, Claevs G, et al. Evaluation of six commercial assays for the rapid detection of Clostridium difficile toxin and/or antigen in stool specimens. Clin Microbiol Infect 2001 Feb;7(2):55-64.
Footnote 21
Dubberke E, Gerding N, Classen D, et al. Strategies to prevent Clostridium difficile infections in acute care hospitals. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2008;29:S81-S92.
Footnote 22
Bartlett JG and Gerding DN. Clinical recognition and diagnosis of Clostridium difficile infection. Clin Infect Dis 2008;46:S12-S18.
Footnote 23
Public Health Agency of Canada, Hand Hygiene Practices in HealthCare Settings. 2012. PHAC release pending.
Footnote 24
Bryce E, Lamsdale A. Forrester L, et al. Bedpan washer disinfectors: An in-use evaluation of cleaning and disinfection. Am J Infect Control 2011;39:566-570.
Footnote 25
Alfa MJ, Olson H, and Buelow-Smith L. Simulated-use testing of bedpan and urinal washer disinfectors: Evaluation of Clostridium difficile spore survival and cleaning efficacy. Am J Infect Control 2008;36:5-11.

Appendix A

Point-of-care Risk Assessment Appendix A - Footnote 1

Prior to any patient/resident/client interaction, all healthcare workers have a responsibility to always assess the infectious risk posed to themselves and to other patients/residents/clients, families, visitors, and healthcare workers. This risk assessment is based on professional judgment about the clinical situation and up-to-date information on how the specific healthcare organization has designed and implemented engineering and administrative controls, along with the availability and use of personal protective equipment.

The point-of-care risk assessment is an activity performed by the healthcare worker before every patient/resident/client interaction, to:

  1. Evaluate the likelihood of exposure to the infectious agent:
    • from a specific interaction (e.g., performing/assisting with aerosol-generating medical procedures, other clinical procedures/interaction, non-clinical interaction [admitting, teaching patients/residents/clients and families], transporting patients/residents/clients, direct face-to-face interaction with patients/residents/clients, etc.);
    • with a specific patient/resident/client (e.g., infants/young children, patients/residents/clients not capable of self care / hand hygiene, have poor compliance with respiratory hygiene, copious respiratory secretions, frequent coughing/sneezing, diarrhea, etc.);
    • in a specific environment (e.g., single rooms, shared rooms/washrooms, hallway, assessment areas, emergency departments, public areas, therapeutic departments, diagnostic imaging departments, housekeeping, etc.);
    • under available conditions (e.g., air exchanges in a large waiting area or in an airborne infection isolation room, patient/resident/client waiting areas, etc.);
    AND
  2. Choose the appropriate actions/personal protective equipment needed to minimize the risk of the patient/resident/client, healthcare worker, other staff, family, visitor, contractor, etc. of exposure to the infectious agent.

The point-of-care risk assessment is not a new concept, but one that is already performed regularly by healthcare workers many times a day for their safety and the safety of patients/residents/clients and others in the healthcare environment. For example, when a healthcare worker assesses a patient/resident/client and the situation to determine the possibility of blood or body fluid exposure or chooses appropriate personal protective equipment to care for a patient/resident/client with an infectious disease, these actions are both activities of a point-of-care risk assessment.

References:

Appendix A - Footnote 1
Public Health Agency of Canada. Prevention and Control of Influenza during a Pandemic for All Healthcare Settings. Annex F of the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector. Available at: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cpip-pclcpi/index-eng.php

To obtain an electronic copy of the report, send your request to:

Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control
Public Health Agency of Canada
100 Eglantine Driveway
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9
E-Mail: ccdic-clmti@phac-aspc.gc.ca