Viral gastroenteritis (Gastro-Enter-eye,tiss), also called stomach flu, gastric flu, and stomach virus, is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting & diarrhea. Viruses that are known to cause gastroenteritis include the genus Rotavirus, the genus Norovirus, the genus Sapovirus, the family Adenovirus, and the family Astrovirus. The genus Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea and sickness among infants and children worldwide. The genus Norovirus or the species Norwalk virus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis among adults in America, causing greater than 90% of outbreaks. These localized epidemics typically occur when groups of people spend time in close physical proximity to each other, such as on cruise ships, in hospitals, or in restaurants. People may remain infectious even after their diarrhea has ended.
The virus can be spread through close contact with an infected person or a contaminated surface, or through spoiled or poorly cooked or contaminated food or beverages. Symptoms begin 1 to 2 days after infection and range from inflammation of the stomach and intestines to back and rib pain. People typically recover in 24 to 72 hours and should rest, eat non-fatty foods that produce little gas, and drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Viral gastroenteritis is contagious. Until symptoms subside, the sick person should avoid contact with others as much as possible. It is not recommended that they take over-the-counter anti-nausea, anti-diarrhea, anti-inflammatory, or other common medicines (such as acetaminophen) as they can further irritate the stomach. Although frequent hand washing is recommended for all forms of gastroenteritis, and handwashing prevents transmission of some forms of gastroenteritis (norovirus), it does not necessarily prevent all forms (rotavirus). If symptoms persist for more than 6 days, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
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