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C. perfringens food poisoning is caused by infection with the
Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) bacterium. C. perfringens is found
frequently in the
intestines of humans and many animals and is present
in soil and areas contaminated by human or animal feces.
In most cases, C. perfringens
food poisoning results when you eat improperly cooked and stored foods.
Normally, bacteria are found on food after cooking, and these bacteria can
multiply and cause C. perfringens food poisoning if the
foods sit out and cool before refrigerating. Commonly infected foods include
meats, meat products, and gravy.
Symptoms of C. perfringens food poisoning include intense abdominal cramps
and watery diarrhea. Your symptoms usually appear 6 to 24 hours after eating
foods containing large numbers of C. perfringens. The
disease usually is over within 24 hours. Less severe symptoms may last for 1 or
Your doctor will do a medical history and
physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms, foods you have
recently eaten, and your work and home environments. A stool culture and blood
tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis.
You treat C. perfringens food poisoning by managing any complications until it
Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the
most common complication. Do not use medicines, including antibiotics and other
treatments, unless your doctor recommends them.
To prevent dehydration, take
frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large,
loose stool you have. You can also use a sports drink, such as Gatorade. Soda
and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important
electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they
should not be used to rehydrate.
Try to stay with a healthy diet as much as possible. Eating healthy foods will help you to get enough
nutrition. Doctors believe that eating a healthy diet will also help you feel
better faster. But try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also
avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for 2 days after all symptoms have
You can prevent C. perfringens
food poisoning by cooling and storing foods correctly (adapted from the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
It is important to pay particular attention to food
preparation and storage during warm months when food is often served outside.
Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather, so food can spoil more quickly and
possibly cause illness. Do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the
temperature is above 90°F (32°C), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
October 18, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
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