Viral Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach, and the intestines as well. Viral gastroenteritis is caused by different viruses resulting to vomiting and diarrhea. It is also known as “stomach flu” but influenza viruses are not the cause.


Norovirus, rotavirus, type 40 and 41 adenoviruses and astrovirus are the cause of viral gastroenteritis. Bacteria don’t cause viral gastroenteritis or parasites or medications though the symptoms are sometimes similar.


Vomiting and watery diarrhea are the main symptoms of this viral infection. The infected person may have fever, headache and stomach ache. Usually the symptoms begin one to two days after a viral infection that caused the gastroenteritis. It may last up to ten days depending on the type of virus that caused the illness. Viral gastroenteritis is not a serious illness to most people who were infected. They can recover easily without associated problem. It becomes serious if a person isn’t able to replenish the water loss due to vomiting and diarrhea.

Viral Gastroenteritis Transmission

Viral gastroenteritis is a communicable disease. The virus is spread through drinking or eating of contaminated foods and close contact to the infected person. Food can be contaminated if the handler or preparer of the food is infected with viral gastroenteritis. This happens if they don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Shellfish are contaminated through sewage. People get gastroenteritis from contaminated selfish harvested from contaminated water causing diarrhea. Drinking of contaminated water also helps spread this viral disease.

Viral gastroenteritis happens in any country with different activity according to season. Astrovirus and rotavirus infection occur in the cooler months. Adenovirus occurs in all seasons. Norovirus virus also occurs in all seasons but favorably in winter. It usually occurs in places such as schools, nursing homes, child care facilities and in group settings like in cruise ships, banquet halls, campgrounds and dormitories.


Diagnosis is made by physicians based on the symptoms presented by the patient. Rotavirus is diagnosed through testing of the stool in the laboratory.


The primary concern in treating children and adults is to prevent dehydration or severe water loss in the body. The treatment begins at your home. Your physician will give specific instructions about rehydration. It is recommended to have a supply of ORS or oral rehydration solution all the time to be used when diarrhea occurs in a child. It can be purchased in the pharmacies without prescription. There are written instructions in the package of ORS which you can follow but be sure to use boiled water. Antibiotics should be avoided because it is not beneficial to viral infections unless prescribed by the physician.


Frequent disinfection of surfaces especially contaminated ones with chlorine bleach, hand washing and prompt washing of soiled clothing prevents one from getting infected. Avoid water or foods that are contaminated. Rotavirus gastroenteritis can be prevented through vaccines. There are two kinds of licensed vaccines for rotavirus gastroenteritis to protect infants and children from severe diarrhea made by rotavirus. It is given with other vaccines in the child’s first year of life.

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