What is viral gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting or diarrhea. It is often called the “stomach flu”, although it is not caused by the influenza viruses. Many different viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including rotaviruses, noroviruses, adenoviruses, type 40 or 41, sapoviruses, and astroviruses. Viral gastroenteritis is not caused by bacteria (such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli) or parasites (such as Giardia), or by mediations or other medical conditions, although the symptoms may be similar. Your doctor can determine if the diarrhea is caused by a virus or by something else.
How do people get viral gastroenteritis?
People can become infected by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages, or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their mouth. Food (especially shellfish) and water may be contaminated by sewage. Food may be contaminated by food preparers or handlers who have viral gastroenteritis, especially if they do not wash their hands regularly after using the bathroom.
Can I catch viral gastroenteritis from someone?
Yes, viral gastroenteritis is contagious. It is spread through close contact with infected persons (for example, by sharing food, water, or eating utensils) or by touching surfaces contaminated by an infected person and then touching one’s mouth.
How can I protect myself and my family from getting sick with viral gastroenteritis?
People can reduce their chance of getting infected by frequent hand-washing, prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces, prompt washing of soiled articles of clothing and avoiding food or water that is thought to be contaminated.
What are the signs 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 there a cure for viral gastroenteritis?
There is no cure, however almost all people who get viral gastroenteritis recover completely without any long-term problems. The most important thing to do for people with viral gastroenteritis is prevent severe loss of fluids (dehydration). This treatment should begin at home. Your physician may give you specific instructions about what kinds of fluids to give. Medications, including antibiotics (which have no effect on viruses) and other treatments, should be avoided unless specifically recommended by a physician.