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Gastroenteritis refers to an infection of the gut and is known as food poisoning when caused by food contaminated with virus(e.g.norovirus), bacteria(e.g salmonella), and parasites(e.g Giardia). Gastroenteritis symptoms range in severity and can start within hours of eating contaminated food.
What is viral gastroenteritis
Viral gastroenteritis affects the intestines and often manifests as watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea and, in some cases, fever. As its name suggests, the infection is caused by a virus. And while the term “stomach flu” is commonly used to refer to viral gastroenteritis, this is incorrect as the infection does not affect the stomach but the intestines. In most cases, symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are short-lived and self-resolving. Thus, infected persons rarely need medical treatment before they recover. Although not common, prolonged infection may lead to severe symptoms like dehydration.
Prevalence of viral gastroenteritis
Gastroenteric viral infections occur frequently, with norovirus being the most commonly identified organism, infecting an average of 20 million people annually in the United States. Gastroenteric infections caused by other viruses are not common. While the infection is generally widespread in a population, symptoms might be more severe in older people, young children and immunocompromised individuals.
Severe viral gastroenteritis might lead to dehydration, which occurs due to loss of fluids and electrolytes when you vomit or experience diarrhea. Lost electrolytes and fluids need to be replaced to restore your body’s normal activities. Infected persons need to consult their physician when symptoms of dehydration are suspected. Left unattended, dehydration may be fatally dangerous, resulting in organ damage, coma, shock, or death.