Gastroenteritis (cont.)

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Clostridium difficile as a cause of gastroenteritis

The CDC reported early in 2012, that deaths from gastroenteritis have more than doubled in about an 8 year timespan. Although the CDC data showed a two-fold increase in deaths from Norovirus, the most striking finding was a five-fold increase in the number of C. difficile deaths, mainly in the elderly. Deaths climbed from about 2,700 in 1999 to 14,500 in 2007 (the last year with data available to the CDC). The reason for this marked increase in deaths, according to the CDC, is the development of C. difficile strains with both increased virulence (ability to cause disease) and increased antibiotic resistance that results in gastroenteritis infections that are hard to treat, especially in the elderly.

What are gastroenteritis symptoms?

The gastroenteritis symptoms are:

  • diarrhea,
  • nausea,
  • abdominal cramps, and
  • vomiting.

Not all affected individuals will develop all symptoms. Some people also may develop a mild fever of about 100 F (37.7 C). Most symptoms will resolve in about 2 to 5 days. Gastroenteritis may cause dehydration during this short time period, mainly in children or debilitated adults. In this article, gastroenteritis with dehydration is considered severe gastroenteritis.

People with symptoms of diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting that last longer than 5 days, and often may have other symptoms of fever (greater than 101 F, 38.3 C), malaise, dehydration, sepsis, or additional symptoms, for this article, will not be considered to have gastroenteritis. Not all investigators or health care professionals will agree with this designation and consider bloody diarrhea, vomiting more than 48 hours, fever higher than 101 F, dehydration, and relatively constant abdominal pain as symptoms of severe gastroenteritis. However, since these symptoms are non-specific and are more frequently are associated as part of a spectrum of symptoms that occur with a specific disease that needs medical care, often quickly, these symptoms are considered as part of those that may occur with a number of specific diseases.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2014

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