What is gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is a catchall term for infection or irritation of the digestive tract, particularly the stomach and intestine. It is frequently referred to as the stomach or intestinal flu, although the influenza virus is not associated with this illness. Major symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms are sometimes also accompanied by fever and overall weakness. Gastroenteritis typically lasts about three days. Adults usually recover without
problem, but children, the elderly, and anyone with an underlying disease are more vulnerable to complications such as dehydration.
Gastroenteritis usually consists of mild to severe diarrhea that may be accompanied by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and discomfort in the abdomen. Although gastroenteritis usually is not serious in a healthy adult, causing only discomfort and inconvenience, it can cause life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in the very ill, the very young, and the very old.
Typically, children are more vulnerable to rotaviruses, the most significant cause of acute watery diarrhea. Annually, worldwide, rotaviruses are estimated to cause 800,000 deaths in children below age five. For this reason, much research has gone into developing a vaccine to protect children from this virus. Adults can be infected with rotaviruses, but these infections typically have minimal or no symptoms.
Children are also susceptible to adenoviruses and astroviruses, which are minor causes of childhood gastroenteritis. Adults experience illness from astroviruses as well, but the major causes of adult viral gastroenteritis are the caliciviruses and SRSVs. These viruses also cause illness in children. The SRSVs are a type of calicivirus and include the Norwalk, Southhampton, and Lonsdale viruses. These viruses are the most likely to produce vomiting as a major symptom.
Bacterial gastroenteritis is frequently a result of poor sanitation, the lack of safe drinking water, or contaminated food--conditions common in developing nations. Natural or man-made disasters can make underlying problems in sanitation and food safety worse. In developed nations, the modern food production system potentially exposes millions of people to disease-causing bacteria through its intensive production and distribution methods. Common types of bacterial gastroenteritis can be linked to Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria; however, Escherichia coli 0157 and Listeria monocytogenes are creating increased concern in developed nations. Cholera and Shigella remain two diseases of great concern in developing countries, and research to develop long-term vaccines against them is underway.
More information on gastroenteritis
What is gastroenteritis? - Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestine resulting in diarrhea, with vomiting and cramps when irritation is excessive.
What causes gastroenteritis? - The most common cause of gastroenteritis is viral infection. Gastroenteritis arises from ingestion of viruses, certain bacteria, or parasites.
What is stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis)? - Stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) is a viral infection that affects the stomach and small intestine. It is also called viral gastroenteritis.
What is bacterial gastroenteritis? - Bacterial gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by bacteria or bacterial toxins.
What is eosinophilic gastroenteritis? - Eosinophilic gastroenteritis is a rare disease in which the lining of the stomach, small intestines and large intestines become inflitrated with eosinophilis.
What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis? - The main symptoms of gastroenteritis include poor feeding in infants, vomiting and fever, usually rapidly followed by diarrhoea.
How is gastroenteritis diagnosed? - The symptoms of gastroenteritis are usually enough to identify the illness. However, if identification of the infectious agent is required.
What're the treatments for gastroenteritis? - Symptoms of uncomplicated gastroenteritis can be relieved with adjustments in diet, herbal remedies, and homeopathy.
How is gastroenteritis prevented? - If the gastroenteritis is caused by a virus, it probably cannot be prevented. There are few steps that can be taken to avoid gastroenteritis.