The stomach virus is a funny little bug that can cause a lot of discomfort for us humans. The virus is known to cause viral gastroenteritis which is where the term “stomach virus” comes from.
The following article will discuss the various aspects of the condition and elaborate on the symptoms, treatment and causes of this condition.
What is Stomach virus?
The stomach virus is part of the Noroviruses that are responsible for causing gastroenteritis and can be very infectious. The frequent cause of gastroenteritis is this group of viruses also called the stomach bug. However, the condition also frequently occurs due to viruses belonging in these families: rotaviruses, sapoviruses, adenoviruses, and astroviruses.
As per the National Institutes of Health, Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis. The stomach bug usually begins to show signs of infection within two days, which can last anywhere between three to eight days.
The causes of the infection are as follows:
The leading cause of stomach flu in adults, it causes nearly 50% of the infections around the world! It is a virus to look out for due to its high resistance to the normal defenses that are set up against it.
This virus causes pediatric stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis in children. Most children come in contact with the virus by the time they are three, which confers acquired immunity to adults.
This virus infects children younger than three, which is why it is usually found in daycare centers. However, reports of the virus infecting elderly people in nursing homes have also been found.
The virus causes the majority of the respiratory infections and may lead to stomach flu when a patient accidentally ingests it. There is no specific age group that it infects.
All of these viruses can cause inflammation of the stomach and the intestines which leads to pain. The infection can be so severe that it reaches the large intestine, during which immediate emergency care may be necessary.
Following symptoms can be observed upon infection of the stomach virus:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
In addition, the severity of the infection determines the immune system’s reaction. This can present as systemic symptoms which are:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Body aches
The common causes of the stomach flu or the spread of the stomach virus are as follows:
- Consumption of contaminated food or water
- Exposure to the virus from someone in the community or person you come in close contact with such as family members.
The diagnosis of the condition occurs through the verification of the symptoms. The healthcare provider checks the symptoms during physical examination and draws a conclusion based on their observation.
In addition, the physician also requires a lab test to confirm if the cause of the infection is viral. The absence of a pharmacological cure for the condition makes it difficult to treat that way. Thus, the identification of the causal organism is not necessary. Usually the severity of the symptoms are enough to suggest if the causal organism is a virus. Thus, the following treatment methods are suggested by the physician.
The treatment alternatives available for people with stomach flu are as follows:
- Hydration and Nutrition
The symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea can lead to severe loss of nutrients and ions. This causes an imbalance of ions which can lead to dehydration. This impedes the recovery process. Thus, hydration through oral solutions or in severe dehydration IV rehydration is an option that is also helpful in restoring a patient’s health.
The nutritional intake is also a target for improvement as it can help in the restoration of necessary ions and nutrients that can restore the hydration levels. Diets such as the BRAT diet or the Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast is a great option. This helps due to its gentle effect on the stomach- which thus provides a relief from the cramping and stomach pain.
Doctors may prescribe anti-emetics or drugs that prevent vomiting and control nausea. Drugs such as over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication. However, these are rarely given in pediatric cases.
The prevention bit of the infection is the real weapon against stomach virus. The simplest way to keep this bug at bay is through following these simple steps:
- Maintaining hand hygiene
The first point of contact for the causal organism to gain entry into a healthy system is through our hands. Thus, good handwashing after using the washroom or changing a diaper is imperative to controlling the spread of the germ. Especially before coming in contact with food.
- Washing and disinfecting common surfaces
The disinfection and washing of the materials and surfaces that an infected person has come in contact with ensures that healthy people do not catch the virus. The disinfection of the surfaces can be done with the help of bleach and water mixture ( 25 tablespoons per gallon, depending on the surface). It also involves washing clothes or linen that an infected person has come in contact with. The use of a high heat setting during wash can ensure disinfection of contaminated clothes and linen.
- Safe handling of food
There are high chances that the food may be contaminated with the stomach virus. Thus, safe food preparation and handling procedures can reduce the risk of infection. Moreover, if possible, it is best that the person who has the infection avoid handling food.
The common steps that you should keep in mind during food handling that can reduce the chances of stomach flu are:
- Not washing meat before cooking, as any microorganism present will be killed during the cooking process.
- This includes eggs as there are high chances of cross-contamination.
- Washing produce such as vegetables, and fruits is necessary as it washes away any dirt or microorganisms.
- Wash your hands to prevent cross-contamination after handling of raw meat as it can become contaminated.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Medical attention is necessary in the following conditions:
- Symptoms have not shown improvement in four days
- Persistent high fever for more than 2 days.
- Severe dehydration
- Blood in feces
- Severe abdominal pain
Differences from Food Poisoning
The two conditions are quite different. Despite having similar symptoms, the two have different origins. Viral gastroenteritis is caused by a virus whereas food poisoning is caused by a bacteria or virus. Food poisoning can cause stomach flu if the virus is present in the food, however, bacterial contaminations can cause food poisoning.
Wrapping It Up!
In conclusion, stomach virus can be mainly norovirus, however there may be other types of virus that can cause the condition. In addition, the treatment may be rehydration or nutritional uptake as it can help in reducing the severity of the symptoms.