42 N Breiel BlvdMiddletown, OH 45042
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Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection caused by several different viruses. Highly contagious, viral gastroenteritis is the second most common illness in the United States. It causes millions of cases of diarrhea each year. Anyone can get viral gastroenteritis and most people recover without any complications. However, viral gastroenteritis can be serious when people cannot drink enough fluids to replace what is lost through vomiting and diarrhea, especially infants, young children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems.
The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. Other symptoms are headache, fever, chills, and abdominal pain. Symptoms usually appear within four to forty-eight hours after exposure to the virus and last for one to two days, through symptoms can last as long as ten days.
Your body needs fluids to function. Dehydration is the loss of fluids from the body. Important salts or minerals, known as electrolytes, can be lost with the fluids. In viral gastroenteritis, the combination of diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration are :
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. Mild dehydration can be treated by drinking liquids. Severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids and hospitalization. Untreated severe dehydration can be life threatening.
What Causes Viral Gastroenteritis?
The viruses that cause viral gastroenteritis damage the cells in the lining of the small intestine. As a result, fluids leak from the cells into the intestine and produce watery diarrhea. Four types of viruses cause most viral gastroenteritis:
Viral gastroenteritis is often mistakenly called “stomach flu” but it is not caused by the influenza virus and it does not infect the stomach. Also, viral gastroenteritis is not caused by bacteria or parasites.
Viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious. The viruses are commonly transmitted by people with unwashed hands. People can get the viruses through close contact with infected individuals by sharing their food, drink, or eating utensils, or by eating food or drinking beverages that are contaminated with the virus.
People who no longer have symptoms may still be contagious, since the virus can be found in their stool for up to two weeks after they recover from their illness. Also, people can become infected without having symptoms and they can still spread the infection.
Outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis can occur in households, child care settings, schools, nursing homes, cruise ships, camps, dormitories, restaurants, and other places where people gather in groups. If you suspect that your were exposed to a virus in one of these settings, you may want to contact your local health department, which tracks outbreaks.
If you think you have viral gastroenteritis, you may want to see your doctor. Doctors generally diagnose viral gastroenteritis based on the symptoms and a physical examination. Your doctor may ask for a stool sample to test for rotavirus or to rule out bacteria or parasites as the cause of your symptoms. Please do not bring a stool sample to the office unless it has been specifically requested by Dr. Gaeke.
Most cases of viral gastroenteritis resolve over time without specific treatment. Antibiotics are NOT effective against viral infections. The primary goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms, and prompt treatment may be needed to prevent dehydration. The following steps may help relieve the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis:
Points to Remember
42 N. Breiel Boulevard
Middletown, OH 45042
Tel: (513) 422-0024
Fax: (513) 422-0232
Monday – Thursday: 9 AM to 5 PM
Friday: 9 AM to Noon
Patients are seen in the office on Tuesday and Thursday. Procedures are done on Monday and Wednesday.
This Web site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.