Column: Living with the dangers of C-Diff


Commentary by Frank Petrarca


Clostridium difficile, aka C. diff., is probably the most common disease you’ve never heard of, unless you work in health care.

C. diff is a bacterial infection of your colon that causes relentless diarrhea, severe cramping and fever, just to name a few symptoms. Complications include severe weight loss, permanent colon damage/loss or even death.

C. diff. is contagious and hard to kill, because inactive spores are impervious to antibiotics. It is transmitted by infected fecal material migrating to hands and surfaces. Most patients get this after taking one or more rounds of antibiotics that kill your gut’s good flora as well as the original infection, holding the door open for C. diff. to colonize.

Most of us have some C. diff. bacteria in our colon already, or it is acquired in medical settings. The treatment is more awful antibiotics, which fail for most patients. The elderly rarely recover. Although some patients might beat C. diff. with a single round of antibiotics, others fight it on and off their entire lives. I’ve had it three times. Try to imagine being a teacher, firefighter or truck driver with these long-lasting complications.

Proper hand washing is critical to stop the spread of C. diff. Discuss every antibiotic with your doctor. Never take two rounds close together – it’s a common link and is how I ended up in the hospital.

Roughly 67 percent of patients are female. If you have any classic C. diff. symptoms after taking antibiotics, seek medical help immediately. There is no home remedy, and waiting to seek proper medical treatment worsens the damage to your colon and can cause death. Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines make it much worse and can cause really bad things to happen.

This is what the medical community means when mentioning overuse of antibiotics. C. diff. is way more common than you think. Just ask any nurse. Please be informed of the risks, symptoms and warning signs associated with C. diff. and spread the word about the dangers of this disease during November, which is C. Diff. Awareness Month.

Frank Petrarca is a Carmel resident of 16 years and has battled C-Diff three times. He is an account support manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise and is married with two grown children and a 6-year-old granddaughter.

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