C. Diff Infections Are Rising, Study Finds

Cases of the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile -- also known as C. diff -- are increasing in the United States, and many cases aren't contracted from a hospital, according to a new study.

Mayo Clinic researchers found that C. diff infections between 2004 and 2009 were 12 times higher in children, compared with cases between 1991 and 1997. And among these cases, 75 percent of them were not contracted from a hospital.

"It has been believed that the typical profile of a person with C. difficile is an older patient, taking antibiotics, while in the hospital. For the first time, we have described a significantly increased incidence of C. difficile in children with diarrhea in a population-based cohort," study researcher Sahil Khanna, M.B.B.S., of the Mayo Clinic Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, said in a statement.

The study was presented during Digestive Disease Week 2012.

C. diff has always been known as an infection that usually affects older people in hospitals, or in people who've been on antibiotics for a long period of time. But recently it's become a concern for people who aren't in hospitals and for younger, healthy people, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Symptoms of C. diff infection include diarrhea and abdominal cramping, but if the infection becomes severe, symptoms can also include dehydration, fever, bloody stools and weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

To avoid C. diff, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends regularly washing your hands with soap and water; disinfecting surfaces with bleach if they've been in contact with someone with C. diff; washing clothing that may have come into contact with stools; avoiding antibiotic use unless recommended by a doctor; and using disposable gloves around people who are infected with C. diff.