One in 6 people who contract Clostridium difficile (C. diff) will get a second infection within a few weeks of their first one. Here’s how to prevent the spread and reinfection.

Clostridium difficile (also known as C. diff or C. difficile) is a bacterium that can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and fever. It’s most common in people who are taking or have recently taken antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill healthy bacteria, leading to a harmful overgrowth of C. diff.

About 500,000 C. diff infections are reported in the United States every year. Of those, 1 in 6 people will get a second infection within a few weeks of their first one.

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of passing C. diff in your home and other common surroundings. These include:

  • Washing your hands and body: C. diff lives inside the intestines of some adults, and it’s passed through contact with infected surfaces. In other words, if you use the bathroom and don’t wash your hands, you could pass the bacteria to yourself or others on your skin or hands. To prevent this, use warm water and soap, and wash after using the restroom and before you eat.
  • Take daily showers: C. diff can live on the skin, so you should bathe with soap and warm water daily during and immediately after an infection.
  • Washing your clothes: If you have a C. diff infection, wash all linens and clothes you come into contact with before others might use them. This includes bed linens, towels, washcloths, clothes, and more. Use the highest temperature the fabrics can withstand.
  • Cleaning surfaces with bleach: Many home cleaning products don’t kill the bacteria. You need ones that contain bleach, as it is proven to kill the bacteria.
  • Wipe off high-use areas: Keep high-use areas of your home clean. These areas include the bathroom, kitchen, doorknobs, handles, and electronic devices.
  • Using a separate bathroom: If you’re staying in a house with others and have diarrhea, it’s a good idea to designate one bathroom for your use only — and ask others not to use it until you’ve had a chance to thoroughly clean it.
  • Taking medications as prescribed: People taking antibiotics are 7 to 10 times more likely to develop a C. diff infection. If you don’t need to take antibiotics, don’t. Only take antibiotics as they’re prescribed to you.