What is Gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses, which results in vomiting and/or diarrhea. It is often called the "stomach flu", although it is not caused by the influenza virus.
What are the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis?
The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. The affected person may also have headache, fever, and abdominal cramps (stomach ache). In general, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days following infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness.
Is viral gastroenteritis a serious illness?
For most people, it is not. People who get viral gastroenteritis almost recover completely without any long-term problems. Gastroenteritis is a serious illness, however, for persons who are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through vomiting or diarrhea. Infants, young children, and persons who are unable to care for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly, are at risk for dehydration from loss of fluids.
Is the illness contagious? How are these viruses spread?
Yes, viral gastroenteritis is contagious. The viruses that cause gastroenteritis are spread through close contact with infected persons (for example, by sharing food, water, or eating utensils). Individuals may also become infected by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages.
Where and when does viral gastroenteritis occur?
Viral gastroenteritis outbreaks can occur in institutional settings, such as schools, childcare facilities, and nursing homes, and can occur in other group settings, such as banquet halls, cruise ships, dormitories, and campgrounds.
Who gets viral gastroenteritis?
Anyone can get it. Viral gastroenteritis occurs on people of all ages and backgrounds. However, some viruses tend to cause diarrhea disease primarily among people in specific age groups. Rotavirus infection is the most common cause of diarrhea in infants and young children under 5 years old. Adenoviruses and astroviruses cause diarrhea mostly in young children, but older children and adults can also be affected. Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses are more likely to cause diarrhea in older children and adults.
How is viral gastroenteritis treated?
The most important thing to remember in treating viral gastroenteritis in children and adults is to prevent severe loss of fluids (dehydration). This treatment should begin at home. Your physician may give you specific instructions about what kinds of fluid to give. Medications, including antibiotics (which have NO effect on viruses) and over-the -counter treatments, should be avoided unless specifically recommended by a physician.
Can viral gastroenteritis be prevented?
Yes! Persons can reduce their chance of getting infected by frequent hand washing, prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners, and prompt washing of soiled articles of clothing. If food or water is thought to be contaminated, it should be avoided.
Last Modified on 4/16/2013 1:54:20 PM