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 to 48 hours.
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 passes. 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, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better. You can take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea. These kinds of drinks should not be used to rehydrate.
When you feel like eating again, start with small amounts of food.
You can prevent C. perfringens food poisoning by cooling and storing foods correctly.
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 (32.2°C), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.