Description, Cuases and Risk Factors:
An epidemic, highly communicable but rather mild disease of sudden onset, caused by the epidemic gastroenteritis virus (especially Norwalk agent), with an incubation period of 16-48 hours and a duration of 1-2 days, which affects all age groups; infection is associated with some fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache, one or another of which may be predominant.
Alternative Name: Acute infectious nonbacterial gastroenteritis, epidemic nonbacterial gastroenteritis, rotavirus infection; norwalk virus; Gastroenteritis - viral; Stomach flu.
Viral gastroenteritis is a leading cause of severe diarrhea in both adults and children. Many types of viruses can cause gastroenteritis. The most common ones are: Astrovirus Enteric adenovirus, Norovirus (also called Norwalk-like virus). It is common among school-age children. Rotavirus, the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis in children. It can also infect adults exposed to children with the virus. Outbreaks may also occur in nursing homes. These viruses are often found in contaminated food or drinking water. Those with the highest risk for severe gastroenteritis include the young, the elderly, and people who have suppressed immune systems. Most infectious organisms are transmitted by unwashed hands. The best way to prevent viral gastroenteritis is to handle food properly and wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet.
Viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious. The viruses are commonly transmitted by people with unwashed hands. People can get the viruses through close contact with infected individuals by sharing their food, drink, or eating utensils, or by eating food or drinking beverages that are contaminated with the virus. Noroviruses in particular, are typically spread to other people by contact with stool or vomit of infected people and through contaminated water or food—especially oysters from contaminated waters.
Outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis can occur in households, child care settings, schools, nursing homes, cruise ships, camps, dormitories, restaurants, and other places where people gather in groups.
The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. Other symptoms are headache, fever, chills, and abdominal pain. Symptoms usually appear within 4 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus and last for 1 to 2 days, though symptoms can last as long as 10 days.
Your health care provider will look for signs that your body does not have enough water (dehydration). These include, dry or sticky mouth, severe dehydration, low blood pressure, low or no urine output, urine appears dark yellow, sunken eyes. Tests that examine stool samples may be used to identify the specific virus. This is usually not needed for virus gastroenteritis. A stool culture may be done to identify a bacterial cause for diarrhea.
Most cases of viral gastroenteritis resolve over time without specific treatment. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. The primary goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms, and prompt treatment may be needed to prevent dehydration.
There are two rotavirus vaccines for use in children. Vaccination against rotavirus is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. RotaTeq is one of the vaccines. A serious intestinal problem called intussusception has been reported in a small number of infants who received the RotaTeq vaccine. Immediately call your doctor if your child received this vaccine and has stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, or a change in bowel movements.
Your body needs fluids to function. Dehydration is the loss of fluids from the body. Important salts or minerals, known as electrolytes, can also be lost with the fluids. Fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) lost through diarrhea or vomiting must be replaced by drinking extra fluids. Even if you are able to eat, you should still drink extra fluids between meals.
Food may be offered frequently in small amounts. Suggested foods include: Cereals, bread, potatoes, lean meats, plain yogurt, bananas, fresh apples, and vegetables.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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