also called gastric flue is inflammation of the gastrointestinal
tract, involving both the stomach and the small intestine resulting
in acute diarrhea. It can be transferred by contact with contaminated
food and water. The inflammation is caused most often by an infection
from certain viruses or less often by bacteria.
Diarrhea, which is characterized by frequent and watery bowel
movements, is often caused by gastrointestinal infections, although
it can also come from other illnesses or changes in diet. Germs
such as parasites, viruses, or bacteria can all cause gastrointestinal
Germs which are responsible for diarrhea depends on the geographic
area a person lives in and its level of sanitation, economic
development and hygiene standards. For example, countries that
have poor sanitation or use human waste as fertilizer tend to
have outbreaks of diarrhea when intestinal bacteria or parasites
contaminate crops or drinking water.
In developed countries like the United States, outbreaks of
diarrhea are most often caused by what we call food poisoning.
Food poisoning happens when toxins made by bacteria in food
that is not handled, stored, or cooked properly make a person
The viruses that cause diarrheal illness, also known as viral
gastroenteritis, can pass through a household (or a college
dorm or other place where lots of people live together) quickly
because they're highly infectious. Luckily, the diarrhea usually
goes away on its own in a few days.
For healthy teens and adults, viral gastroenteritis is common
with minor inconvenience, but for small children and people
with chronic illnesses, it can lead to dehydration that requires
Many different types of bacteria and parasites can also cause
GI infections and diarrhea. Most are not serious and go away
after a few days, but others can be quite serious.
Some sources of the infection are improperly prepared food,
reheated meat dishes, seafood, dairy and bakery products.
Gastroenteritis often involves infection of the upper small
bowel, or inflammatory infections of the colon.
The condition is usually of acute onset, normally lasting 1–6
days and is self-limiting.
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of appetite
Fainting and Weakness
Prevention and risk
most effective way to prevent contagious diarrheal infections
is to wash your hands frequently. Dirty hands carry germs into
the body when you do things like bite your nails or use your
hands when eating.
It's important to always wash your hands with soap and water
thoroughly after using the bathroom and before eating, especially
if you know there's an illness going around. Making sure your
bathroom surfaces are clean can also help to prevent infections.
Food and water can also spread germs that cause diarrhea. To
help protect yourself, cook foods thoroughly and wash raw fruits
and vegetables well before eating them.
Make sure your kitchen counters and cooking utensils are clean,
too, especially after they've been in contact with raw meat,
eggs and poultry. Avoid eating food that's been left out for
a few hours, even if it's been reheated, because toxins can
still survive in the food.
If you're traveling or camping, never drink from streams, springs,
or lakes unless local health authorities have certified the
water safe for drinking. In some developing countries, you may
want to stick to bottled water and drinks rather than tap water
and be careful about buying food from street vendors.
Pets, particularly reptiles, can also spread germs if they aren't
kept away from family eating areas. Never wash pet cages or
bowls in the same sink that your family uses to prepare meals.
Always wash your hands after handling your pet.