Staph infections, MRSA, superbugs—terms like these can strike fear into any health-care professional. And there’s a new bug in town massage therapists need to know about.

Physicians warn that an as-yet little-known bacteria, Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, is the next emerging disease threat. This virulent strain of a common intestinal bacteria is plaguing hospitals across the U.S.

Similar to MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, C-diff is an infection that is mainly acquired in a hospital or nursing home, although like MRSA there is some evidence that a community-acquired strain—one that is spread outside the hospital environment—may be developing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Disease caused by Clostridium difficile can range from nuisance diarrhea to life-threatening colitis that could lead to the surgical removal of the colon, and even death,” said Stuart Johnson, M.D., associate professor of medicine, division of infectious diseases, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, in a university press release. “It’s a very hardy strain and it seems to persist.”

Symptoms of C-diff include profuse diarrhea and abdominal pain and distention of the abdomen, the release noted. An infection is also frequently accompanied by fever, nausea and dehydration.

The good news is that by following some common-sense procedures, massage therapists can reduce or prevent spread of bacteria in their practices.

For an indepth look at MRSA, including what you can do to prevent the spread of bacteria in your practice, see “What Massage Therapists Need to Know About Staph Infections,” in the November print edition of MASSAGE Magazine.