Also known as stomach flu and gastroenteritis, stomach virus is a condition in which the person experiences various problems of the gastrointestinal tract like, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. The condition is not caused due to influenza virus, and is known as a flu because the symptoms persist for a few days only. Its symptoms in adults and children are almost same, but the difference in getting infected and recovering entirely depends upon the severity of the infection and the capacity of the immune system to fight back.
Gastroenteritis may be caused by bacteria such as E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, etc, and viruses such as norovirus, adenovirus, rotavirus, etc. Infected food and/or water, along with poor personal hygiene is the major cause of this condition. Poor hand washing habit is usually the culprit of this condition. Medications too sometime weaken the stomach, but they do not cause the infection, they just increase the probability of getting infected. Certain foods may also cause an allergic reaction in the body; lactose intolerance being the most common example. Immune compromised individuals, older people, undernourished people, pregnant women, and young children are all susceptible to gastroenteritis.
A mild stomach ache, followed by sudden bouts of watery diarrhea and vomiting is the first exhibited symptom of stomach flu. Abdominal cramps, fever, and headache are common, and are accompanied with a feeling of fatigue and tiredness. Lips and throat may feel parched due to dehydration. Abnormal bloating or blood-stained stools may also be experienced by some people.
Loss of appetite or repulsion to food, due to the fear of nausea and vomiting is also very common among people. In children and elderly, the adverse effects are slightly more intense, as their immunity is usually low. Skin color discoloration, sunken eyeballs, darkened eye circles, and irritability are some of the symptoms that may be experienced. Symptoms are exhibited within a couple of days of the infection, and may last mostly a week to fortnight.
A diagnosis is done after conducting a medical examination, study of symptoms, and a few laboratory tests. Controlling dehydration is the first priority when it comes to treatment, as excess loss of body fluids further compounds health complications. Unless, a very severe case, most of them can be treated without hospitalization. Oral rehydration solution (ORS) may be prescribed, which must be administered frequently. A few medications to curb vomiting and diarrhea may also be prescribed. Medications are only prescribed if the stomach has been infected with bacteria or parasites, as antibiotics have no effect on viruses.
Stomach virus is contagious, and may be easily transmitted by people with unwashed hands or ones who maintain poor hygiene, or by coming in close contact with infected individuals. Even sharing contaminated food or beverages may lead to a stomach infection. Therefore, maintaining proper personal and social hygiene is extremely important to prevent its spread.