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A Clostridium difficile or C. diff infection can lead to your residents experiencing a range of symptoms from mild to severe diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and even life-threatening damage to the intestine.
What’s more, it is highly infectious. Easily spread from person to person by the faecal-oral route, it can be picked up from infected touch points in your care home environment, such as toilets, commodes, hand rails and furniture.
That is because when an infected resident has diarrhoea, the C. diff bacteria turn into resistant cells called spores that contaminate the immediate environment.
These can survive for long periods on hands, surfaces and clothing unless they are thoroughly cleaned away. If they aren’t, the spores can infect someone else if they get into their mouth.
If you see two or more cases of diarrhoea within a few days at your care home that you know or suspect are infectious, that will be classed as an outbreak.
At this stage, you will have to inform the authorities, isolate affected residents and put in place a rigorous cleaning regime, so it is obviously much better if you can avoid the spread of C. diff in the first place.
Here are 6 simple steps to help you do just that:
1. Avoid broad spectrum antibiotics
C. diff bacteria is typically kept in check by normal bacterial flora in the gut. However certain antibiotics can disturb this natural balance, leading to C. diff bacteria multiplying and producing the toxins that lead to illness.
As a result, you can help preserve your residents’ natural protection to C. diff by trying to avoid the prescription of broad spectrum antibiotics.
2. Act immediately on your suspicions
If you suspect that a resident is suffering from C. difficile, you should promptly send off a sample of their diarrhoeal faeces for a simple diagnostic test that will give you a result within a few hours.
By taking immediate action, rather than ‘a wait and see’ approach, you could prevent a lot of suffering for residents, whilst also reducing risks to visitors and staff at your care home.
3. Isolate affected individuals
If you suspect or know that any of your residents have C. difficile diarrhoea then you should isolate them immediately, keeping them in a single room with their own separate toilet facilities for the duration of their illness.
As they could infect other people if suffering from diarrhoea with C. diff spores, you should also ensure that they remain isolated from other residents until they have had no symptoms for 48 hours.
4. Use protective clothing
Make sure you wear disposable gloves and disposable aprons when you are caring for a resident that you suspect may have Clostridium difficile, especially when washing them or helping them go to the toilet.
Remember to also remove gloves and aprons carefully when finished, disposing of them in pedal bins and washing your hands thoroughly to ensure any C. difficile spores are cleaned away.
5. Sanitize the rest of your care home
In addition to cleaning the infected resident’s room, make sure you clean touch points throughout your care home, as these might have become infected. These can include toilet flushes, door handles, grab-rails, taps and light-switches, so be as thorough as possible. In addition, make sure you clean any carpets and soft furnishings with hot water.
Ideally, you should go through a stringent cleaning procedure at least three times per day until your resident has had no symptoms for 48 hours. This will help tackle the risk of touch points becoming re-infected during that time.
6. Promote good hand hygiene
No matter how thoroughly you clean your care home, there will always be a risk of C. difficile being transmitted to other people, so stress hand hygiene to all residents, staff and visitors.
Ask them to wash their hands when entering and leaving your care home and the resident’s room, before eating and after using the toilet. An antimicrobial hand wash like Virusan is best, as alcohol gel won’t kill C. diff spores.
Handling a C. diff outbreak
Unfortunately, sometimes despite your best efforts an outbreak will take hold in your care home. If this happens ensure you have plenty of antimicrobial disinfectant & cleaner and antimicrobial hand wash to help minimise the spread of infection.
You can find all of these items at the Cairn Care online shop by clicking here.
You may also find it useful to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and request our free fact sheet: Tackling C. diff in your care home, which includes an outbreak action plan and visual handwashing guide.
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