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There are visitor restrictions in the Intermediate Care Unit at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital because of the C. difficile outbreak. (CBC)

Three patients have been diagnosed with C. difficile in a Cape Breton hospital.

The Cape Breton District Health Authority is restricting visitors to the Intermediate Care Unit at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital because of an outbreak of the hospital-acquired infection, Clostridium difficile.

The bacteria, which causes diarrhea and abdominal pain, is spread person to person. C.difficile is commonly found in the intestine, but infections can be life-threatening for those taking antibiotics or who have serious pre-existing health issues.

Health officials the best way to prevent its spread is to wash hands with soap and water.

The infected three patients are in a five-bed unit, which Authority spokesman Greg Boone says constitutes an outbreak.

"Our first outbreak meeting was early this morning. We reviewed where we are and where we need to be and are making sure that our staff and physicians, even any visitors are following whatever precautions, or whatever measures for infection prevention control are necessary to prevent or limit the spread at this time," Boone said Thursday.

Last spring, an outbreak was declared when 49 patients across the district contracted C. difficile and bacteria was implicated in six hospital deaths.

Boone said there have not been any deaths in the current outbreak.

"We know that these patients have underlying medical conditions, other illnesses and that's why they have been in hospital. So C. difficile would probably create or add to complications, or possible make them sicker, but at this stage there have been no deaths," he said.