C-diff infections are on the rise in North Texas. But we can all do our share to stop this deadly infection if we each do our part.
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How can North Texans know if they are coming down with a C-diff infection? Here are the most common signs and symptoms:
• 3 or more watery stools in 24 hours
• Loss of appetite
• Abdominal pain/tenderness
If you or a loved one displays more than one of the signs and symptoms get to a doctor as soon as possible.
1 in 5 North Texans may carry the C-diff germ. This alone is nothing to be alarmed about. The C-diff germ is just one of hundreds of bacteria that lives in our bodies. A C-diff infection is an entirely other matter, now toxins are produced and damage the guts (intestines) lining. It causes frequent diarrhea, fever, dehydration and, if left untreated, can even result in death––especially among the elderly.
C-diff infections are the result of a perfect storm between poor hygiene, overuse of antibiotics and an aging population.
If you are among the 1 in 5 North Texans that may carry C-diff then exposure to antibiotics, especially not completing your medications or taking antibiotics when not needed, can trigger the C-diff to over grow, produce toxins, and cause illness. If you are prescribed an antibiotic then take it all; you can’t keep some for later or share it with friends and family.
C-diff bacteria are found in the feces. North Texans who have had their intestinal flora (normal gut bugs) killed off by antibiotics may become infected if they touch surfaces contaminated with growing C-diff or its spores, and then touch their mouth or mucous membranes. Any surface, object or material that becomes contaminated with feces can become a reservoir for the C-diff spores.
Individuals on antibiotics are more likely to come down with a C-diff infection. Statistics suggest that if you are currently taking antibiotics or have recently been released from a healthcare facility, you are at a much higher risk for a C-diff infection. Antibiotics kill the normal intestinal flora (normal gut bugs) that serve as protection against C-diff infection. Although there are several antibiotics that are effective in fighting C-diff infections, it is estimated that 50 percent of prescribed antibiotics are totally unnecessary and can do you more harm than good.
If you or a loved one is showing C-diff signs and symptoms, talk to your health care provider. He or she may stop or change your antibiotics, and test your stool for C-diff. In many cases this will clear up your signs and symptoms without further treatment. Always ask your physician if the antibiotics they prescribe are absolutely necessary, and don’t pressure your provider for antibiotics if he or she does not prescribe them. Remember antibiotics don’t kill viruses like those that cause the seasonal flu. Be sure to get an annual flu vaccination.
Elderly people ages 75+ are more susceptible to severe C-diff infections. Although most cases of C-diff are in people under age 65, most deaths related to C-diff are in those over 65. 20,000 American deaths are linked to C-diff each year. The elderly are the bulk of this number.
In 2012 the CDC reported that 94 percent of C-diff infections were related to receiving professional medical care. Some of this number is, of course, related to antibiotic use, but some is related to specific cleaning and disinfection challenges of killing C-diff spores. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics all need to change their routine cleaning practices when faced with C-diff. Only bleach and some newer disinfectants can kill C-diff spores.
Communication is the key to success in preventing health care associated C-diff infections. Hospital, clinic, office staff, and patients must let each other know when C-diff is suspected so cleaning and disinfection methods effective for killing C-diff spores can be deployed.
See a doctor as soon as humanly possible. Tell your doctor if you or your loved one has been on antibiotics. Isolate the one showing C-diff signs and symptoms. Clean all surfaces of their living area with bleach. If possible, have the one with diarrhea use a separate bathroom from the rest of your family.
The C-diff bacteria lives in feces. If every North Texan will simply wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, we can all help prevent the spread of C-diff in our community. After you use the bathroom, wash your hands thoroughly with bar soap or liquid soap. Remember, alcohol-base hand gel is of no use in combatting C-diff.