Viral Gastroenteritis

Health Hygiene & Sanitation

Lesson 38 : Prevention Of Intestinal Viral Infections

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach, small and large intestine.
Several different viruses can cause viral gastroenteritis, which is highly contagious and extremely common. Viral gastroenteritis causes millions of cases of diarrhea each year.

Host Factors:

  • Age and Sex: Anyone can get viral gastroenteritis and most people recover without any complications, unless they become dehydrated.

  • Symptoms: The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, chills, abdominal pain. Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 48 hours after exposure to a gastroenteritis-causing virus and last for 1 to 3 days.

  • Complications: Dehydration is the most common complication of viral gastroenteritis. When sufficient fluids are not consumed to replace the fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration results. When dehydrated, the body does not have enough fluids to keep the proper balance of important salts or minerals, known as electrolytes. Infants, young children, older adults, and people with weak immune systems have the greatest risk of becoming dehydrated.

  • The signs of dehydration in adults are excessive thirst, infrequent urination, dark-colored urine, dry skin, lethargy, dizziness, or faintness.

    Signs of dehydration in babies and young children are dry mouth and tongue, lack of tears when crying, no wet diapers for 3 hours or more, high fever, unusually cranky or drowsy behavior, sunken eyes, cheeks, or soft spot in the skull.

    Also, when people are dehydrated, their skin does not flatten back to normal right away after being gently pinched and released.

    People should talk with a health care provider if they have

    • blood in their stool, which may indicate a bacterial infection
    • symptoms that are severe or last more than a few days
    • symptoms of dehydration

    Severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids and hospitalization. Untreated severe dehydration can cause serious health problems such as organ. damage, shock, or coma—a sleeplike state in which a person is not conscious.

Mode of Transmission:

Viral gastroenteritis is transmitted from person to person. Viruses are present in the stool and vomit of infected people. Infected people may contaminate surfaces, objects, food, and drinks with viruses, especially if they do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. When an infected person with unwashed hands shakes hands with or touches another person, the virus can spread. When an infected person vomits, the virus can become airborne.

People may be infected with viruses by

  • touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their mouths
  • sharing food, drink, or eating utensils with infected people
  • eating foods that are contaminated with the virus, such as oysters from contaminated waters
  • swallowing airborne particles that contain viruses

Steps to Relieve Symptons:

  • The following steps may help relieve the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis in adults:
  • drinking plenty of liquids such as fruit juices, sports drinks, caffeine-free soft drinks, and broths to replace fluids and electrolytes
  • sipping small amounts of clear liquids or sucking on ice chips if vomiting is still a problem
  • gradually reintroducing food, starting with bland, easy-to-digest foods such as rice, potatoes, toast or bread, cereal, lean meat, apple sauce, and bananas
  • avoiding fatty foods, sugary foods, dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol until recovery is complete
  • getting plenty of rest

Children present special concerns. Because of their smaller body size, infants and children are likely to become dehydrated more quickly from diarrhea and vomiting. The following steps may help relieve symptoms of viral gastroenteritis and prevent dehydration in children:

  • giving oral rehydration solutions (ORS)
  • giving food as soon as the child is hungry
  • giving infants breast milk or full strength formula, as usual, along with oral rehydration solutions

Older adults and adults with weak immune systems should also drink oral rehydration solutions to prevent dehydration.

People can reduce their chances of getting or spreading viral gastroenteritis if they wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or handling food disinfect contaminated surfaces such as countertops and baby changing tables with a mixture of 2 cups of household bleach and 1 gallon of water avoid foods and drinks that might be contaminated

Last modified: Friday, 27 April 2012, 7:06 AM