Five Fast Facts About Gastroenteritis

Acute Gastroenteritis, which causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, fevers and diarrhea, is a common reason why patients come to us for medical care. In fact, gastroenteritis affects more than 600 million people around the world every year.  Here’s what you need to know about this potentially serious medical condition.

1) Gastroenteritis Is Not Actually The "Stomach Flu."

Many patients refer to gastroenteritis as the "stomach flu," but it’s actually not caused by influenza or, "the flu." While the influenza virus can cause vomiting and diarrhea in some cases, gastroenteritis is caused by viruses other than the flu. This also means that the flu shot doesn’t protect patients against gastroenteritis.

2) The Most Common Cause of Gastroenteritis is Norovirus.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis. Outbreaks of norovirus are common on cruise ships and in daycare centers and long-term care facilities, infecting up to 21 million people in the U.S. each year. You can contract norovirus by coming into contact with an infected person, by eating contaminated food, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

3) Gastroenteritis Is Highly Contagious.

One of the reasons why more than 600 million people around the world contract gastroenteritis each year is because the viruses that cause it are highly contagious, especially in communities and institutional settings where people are in close proximity. The symptoms of gastroenteritis typically begin 1-2 days after exposure.

4) Gastroenteritis Can Cause Serious Complications.

People with severe gastroenteritis can quickly become dehydrated from the vomiting, diarrhea and fevers the infection can cause. While there’s no specific treatment to cure gastroenteritis, patients with severe symptoms often benefit from interventions including I.V. fluids, as well as medications to alleviate nausea and vomiting.

5) Gastroenteritis Is Often Preventable.

While gastroenteritis is highly contagious, it’s also highly preventable. It’s important to wash your hands after having contact with infected patients, before preparing food, and before eating. Also, disinfecting hard surfaces like doorknobs, countertops and sink handles can reduce the risk of infection.

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