Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention Strategies for Viral Gastroenteritis
Did a batch of oysters leave you feeling ill? Did a queasy coworker pass on a nasty bug? Viral gastroenteritis, otherwise known as the stomach flu, is a common condition that affects over 20 million people each year.
What causes it?
Viral gastroenteritis is most commonly caused by norovirus, a type of virus found in contaminated food or water or in objects touched by those already infected. It can also be caused by rotavirus, a virus more common among children than adults.
On average, people are infected by viral gastroenteritis about 5 times in their lifetime, and the condition is more common during the winter months.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are:
Muscle aches and pains
In most cases, symptoms usually only last for one or two days, but some rare cases can last up to 10 days. The most common symptoms, diarrhea and vomiting, can lead to dehydration because of a lack of water retention.
Make sure you stay hydrated as much as possible to avoid further complications. Adults should hydrate with water and sports drinks and children should use water or electrolyte-replacement beverages (found at convenience stores/grocery stores).
How can I prevent it?
Wash your hands throughout the day.
Wash your hands after using the bathroom or before and after handling food. The norovirus can remain in your system for up to two weeks after you’re sick, so washing your hands is essential.
Wash/cook your food thoroughly.
The norovirus is quite resilient, so it’s important to cook your seafood all the way through and completely wash your fruits and vegetables.
Avoid others and disinfect when you’re sick.
If you’re infected by viral gastroenteritis, do not prepare or come in contact with food designated for others. Disinfect any surfaces or objects in your home or otherwise that might have been contaminated.
It’s hard to completely reduce your risk of viral gastroenteritis, but maintaining these prevention tips can be a good start. Be smart about which dishes you order when you go out to eat and practice safe hygiene at all times.