What is Gastroenteritis, Stomach Virus or Stomach Flu?
Gastroenteritis is frequently termed “stomach flu”, “stomach virus” or “gastric flu” because the most frequent cause of stomach virus is viral. Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract which involves the stomach, intestines, or both which results in diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, we will discuss on stomach virus treatment in detail in this post.
What are the causes of stomach virus?
The most frequent causes are viral and bacterial. Other causes are parasites, toxins, food allergies, and medications. The two major causes of deaths are caused by C. difficile, and Norovirus,, this tends to be major hurdle in treating stomach virus.
- Norovirus: causes about 50% to 70% of all gastroenteritis in adults, the most common cause of stomach virus in the US, and second most common cause of death due to gastroenteritis.
- Rotavirus: common cause of diarrhea in infants, occasionally producing dehydration
- Astrovirus: common cause of diarrhea in infants
- Sapovirus: common cause of mild stomach virus in children
- Adenovirus: usually causes respiratory infection, but some strains cause gastroenteritis.
- Clostridium difficile: bacterial overgrowth and toxin production due to antibiotic suppression of normal flora of intestine. This organism causes the highest number of deaths due to stomach virus, mainly in the elderly.
- Staphylococcus: – a frequent cause of diarrhea and abdominal cramps; disease – Staphylococcus food poisoning
- Escherichia coli: food poisoning; diseases – E. coli infections, especially strain 0157:H7 that may cause HUS (hhemolytic-uremic syndrome) or TTP (thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura)
- Salmonella and Shigella: food poisoning; disease – salmonellosis
- Campylobacter and Listeria: contaminated dairy foods
- Vibrio: contaminated drinking water and seafood
- Bacillus: contaminated rice
- Aeromonas and Plesiomonas: seafood contamination
- Yersenia: pork meat contamination
- oysters and seafood
Other causes of stomach virus
- Food allergies from eggs, nuts, milk, and shellfish etc.
- Antibiotics: many antibiotics allow bacterial/fungal overgrowth (see Clostridium difficile previously mentioned)
- Medications: side effects of many medications are diarrhea
- Heavy metal toxins. (aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury)
What are the Symptoms of Stomach Virus?
The symptoms of stomach virus are:
- abdominal cramps, and
- Mild fever of about 100 F (37.7 C).
Most symptoms will resolve in about 2 to 5 days after stomach virus treatment. Gastroenteritis may cause dehydration during this short time period, mainly in children or elderly patients.
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 will not be considered to have gastroenteritis. However, 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.
How does Food get Infected by Stomach Viruses?
Food is easily contaminated by people who prepare or handle food, and have viral gastroenteritis. Stomach virus treatment gives no positive results if failure to adequately wash hands or to clean off foods (for example, vegetables and fruits) that may be contaminated with sewage or untreated water, allow viral contamination that causes stomach virus.
Is Gastroenteritis Contagious?
The majority of causes of stomach virus are contagious (viral, bacterial, and parasitic). gastroenteritis is not contagious in case of food allergies, toxins.
Which Persons are at risk of Gastroenteritis (stomach virus)?
The major risk of gastroenteritis is due to poor hygiene of people with the disease (for example, infants, children, or some food handlers). Some people have higher risk for infection; for example, individuals on cruise ships or those who live or work in crowded conditions like child care centers, dorms, or barracks.
Infants, children and some adults (elderly, immunocompromised) are at risk of developing dehydration with stomach virus because they may lose fluids more rapidly than normal adults. Patients who are treated with antibiotics have their normal bacterial flora suppressed; this can allow for other pathogens, especially C. difficile, to multiply and cause infection. Women who are pregnant are not at any greater risk if they stay well hydrated; if they do not, then there is great risk of complications such as kidney failure, electrolyte abnormalities, shock and fetal death.
What are the Alarming Symptoms of Gastroenteritis (stomach virus)?
As discussed above, stomach virus usually runs a limited course and resolves on its own without medical treatment, and most people will not need to contact a doctor. However, if a person begins to show signs of dehydration and he/she is unable to adequately rehydrate orally at home, medical care should be seeked immediately . Signs and symptoms of dehydration may include:
- decreased or no urine production,
- dry mucus membranes,
- dry mouth or skin,
- inability to produce tears,
- lightheadedness, and
- low blood pressure.
If stomach virus symptoms last for more than about 5 days, or there is an increase in the severity (fever of 101 F or higher, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, constant abdominal pain) or the development of other symptoms, the patient should go for stomach virus treatment and seek immediate medical care.
How is Gastroenteritis (stomach virus) Diagnosed?
Stomach Virus is most often presumptively diagnosed simply by the symptoms. There are no specific tests for stomach virus therefore stomach virus treatment can be started after diagnosis of it. However, during outbreaks, viral and bacterial cultures or PCR and other immunologically-based tests can identify the causative pathogen. However, by the time this identification occurs, most of the patients have begun to recover. When gastroenteritis symptoms become severe, most public health officials and clinicians run such tests to identify the causative agent based on the patient’s history, physical exam, and symptoms.
Stomach Virus Treatment – What is the Treatment for Gastroenteritis?
There is no medicine that will kill stomach flu viruses (antibiotics are not effective against viral infections), this leads to a certain level of difficulty when tackling with stomach virus treatment. Therefore, stomach flu treatment is focused on providing supportive care while the body fights the stomach flu. Supportive care involves treating symptoms, such as dehydration, that can occur as a result of the stomach flu. Fortunately, for people with healthy immune systems, the body is able to effectively kill stomach flu viruses, and after 1 to 10 days (depending on the virus), stomach flu symptoms generally improve.
Your body needs fluids to function. Dehydration is the loss of fluids from the body, an important factor for treating stomach virus. Important salts or minerals, known as electrolytes, can also be lost with the fluids. Dehydration is caused by diarrhea, vomiting and unable to take enough fluids because of nausea or loss of appetite. The symptoms of dehydration are excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urine (or dark-yellow urine), severe weakness, Dizziness or lightheadedness.
The dehydration is corrected by giving special fluids by mouth (called oral rehydration therapy) and it is the most effective stomach flu treatment for preventing dehydration. Sports drinks do not replace the nutrients and minerals lost during this illness. Special fluids used for oral rehydration can be found in most pharmacies or grocery stores and can be purchased without a prescription. DO NOT GIVE FRUIT JUICES AND MILK.
Children with stomach flu need special care for stomach virus treatment and cure. Because of their smaller body size, infants and children are at greater risk of dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting. Oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte® can replace lost fluids, minerals, and salts.
Parents of children with severe diarrhea should start oral rehydration and take their child for medical assessment. In severe cases requiring a visit to the emergency room or hospitalization, stomach flu treatment may involve replacing body fluids directly through the veins using an intravenous (IV) line.
If the affected child is breastfed, mother should continue breastfeeding. If the affected individual has severe dehydration or persistent vomiting which does not allow oral intake of fluids, then the person should be hospitalized and intravenous fluids should be administered to correct dehydration.
Medications like loperamide which act on the intestine to stop diarrhea should not be used in cases of diarrhea due to any infection. This type of medications is usually given for diarrhea which is not due to infection.
Anti Diarrheal Medications:
Medications may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms of gastroenteritis, for example, promethazine (Phenergan), prochlorperazine (Compazine) or ondansetron (Zofran) may be prescribed to reduce vomiting thus making stomach virus treatment possible. Some physicians suggest using these only as a suppository (or IV) since patients frequently just vomit the pills up. Others may prescribe diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil) or loperamide (Imodium) to slow diarrhea. Many clinicians simply suggest no treatment for stomach virus symptoms as all of the drugs have side effects, and the clinicians figure that if the patient stays well hydrated, the symptoms will soon stop nonetheless.
Once the stomach virus symptoms subside, especially vomiting, clinicians recommend a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples and toast) for a day or two before beginning a regular diet.
Individuals that have more serious symptoms, or other symptoms in addition to gastroenteritis need to be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by a physician because the patient will likely have a specific disease that will need treatment. The treatment will depend on the cause of the illness, (for example, salmonellosis or Clostridium difficile). Administration of antibiotics and other treatments may be contraindicated for some of these diseases, so an accurate diagnosis is important. For example, in case of Clostridium difficile, antibiotic sensitivity testing is needed to determine the most effective antibiotics to use since many strains are resistant to these drugs.
Other Measures for Stomach Virus Treatment
Besides avoiding dehydration, other stomach flu treatment suggestions that may help relieve symptoms associated with the illness include the following:
- Allow your digestive tract to settle by not eating for a few hours
- Sip small amounts of clear liquids or suck on ice chips if vomiting is still a problem
- Gradually reintroduce food, starting with bland, easy-to-digest food, like toast, broth, apples, bananas, and rice
- Avoid dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol until recovery is complete
- Get plenty of rest.
What are the Complications of Stomach Virus – Gastroenteritis?
Most people with stomach virus do not develop any complications, and make a complete recovery. The major complication for some people is dehydration, especially infants, children, the elderly, and immunodepressed are at higher risk. In many third world countries, rehydration of infants is difficult at best and environment makes stomach virus treatment even worse. Consequently, there are many infant deaths worldwide due to dehydration caused by gastroenteritis. In addition to dehydration, individuals infected with Clostridium difficile may develop pseudomembranous colitis; people aged 65 and older with this bacterial infection have a higher mortality rate from gastroenteritis.
How can Stomach Virus Prevention – Gastroenteritis prevention?
There are several general steps people can take to prevent or reduce the chance of getting gastroenteritis from almost any cause. These are as follows:
- Hand washing, especially before eating and after any close contact with an infected person, or items (clothing, bedding, toys)
- Launder daily items worn by infected individuals
- Avoid direct contact with infected individuals as much as possible
- Do not eat undercooked foods, especially meats like hamburger
- Do not eat or drink raw foods or untreated water
- Do not drink any untreated or unpasteurized fluids, especially milk
- Thoroughly wash any produce before eating
- While traveling, avoid all raw foods and ice; drink only from sealed bottled products and use bottled water for tooth brushing
These methods can reduce the chance of contracting stomach virus from most of the known causes, but no method offers complete protection.
One major viral pathogen, rotavirus, has a vaccine against it that has markedly reduced the incidence of rotavirus in the US pediatric population. Unfortunately, vaccines for other viral causes are not currently available. The only vaccine used against bacterial causes is Vibrio cholerae vaccine, but it is not readily available.