Acute Gastroenteritis Solicitors - Medical Negligence Compensation Claim Lawyers
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Acute Gastroenteritis Overview
Gastroenteritis is a condition of inflammation and irritation of the lining of the stomach and the intestinal tract from bacteria, viruses or protozoa. The symptoms you see most often are crampy abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting and sometimes a fever. Acute gastroenteritis is also called the stomach flu and symptoms are localized to the stomach, although you can get muscle pains, achy muscles and some respiratory symptoms.
The most common cause of gastroenteritis is a viral infection. Bacterial infections are also common causes of acute gastroenteritis. Up to fifty percent of the time, the cause is never found. Infection can be caused by eating or drinking something contaminated. It can also be caused by direct contact with an infected person. Hand washing is important to preventing the condition.
Viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis include the Norovirus which causes gastroenteritis in 50 to 70 percent of cases. This is a highly contagious virus that is responsible for many gastroenteritis outbreaks. It comes from contaminated liquids and foods or from touching objects that are contaminated with the virus. You can become exposed in a nursing home or a daycare centre where hygiene is often not the best.
A rotavirus infection is more common in children than in adults. A rotavirus vaccine is now available for babies who might get the disease. Almost all children who are not vaccinated get the virus by the time they are five years of age. Other common viruses that cause gastroenteritis include adenoviruses, astroviruses and parvoviruses.
Bacteria can cause acute gastroenteritis. Some produce a toxin that mediates the symptoms, including Staph aureus infections. Among bacteria, Staphylococcus is the most common type of acute gastroenteritis from food poisoning. E. coli is another bacterium that can affect people with gastroenteritis. E. coli O157:H7 is one type of bacterium that can cause severe gastroenteritis associated with bloody diarrhea, kidney failure and clotting problems in some affected people.
Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shigella are other bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis. Symptoms are similar to viral disease but there is a higher likelihood of bloody diarrhoea in bacterial acute gastroenteritis. They can be spread through contaminated water and/or food. Clostridium difficile infections can be caused by overgrowth of bacteria when a person has taken antibiotics for another infection. Quinolone antibiotics, penicillins, cephalosporins and clindamycin carry a high risk of getting Clostridium difficile gastroenteritis.
Parasites and protozoans cause gastroenteritis less frequently than other organisms. They are commonly caused by drinking contaminated water or swimming in contaminated water. Giardia is a common cause of protozoan gastroenteritis. It is a water-borne illness. Cryptosporidium is another parasite that is shed in the stool of animals and picked up through contaminated surfaces, contaminated water or food sources. Those who are immunosuppressed have a higher risk of severe infection with this organism.
The main symptoms of the disease are nausea and vomiting. A bloody diarrhoea can be found in certain infections and there is usually a low grade fever. Abdominal bloating and crampy abdominal pain are common symptoms as well. If the fever is high or there is dehydration, there is a higher risk of severe gastroenteritis.
Gastroenteritis can be diagnosed through the physical examination consistent with the disease. A stool sample can be taken to look for parasites or to culture for bacteria or viruses.
The time between contamination and symptomatic disease includes 2-6 hours for Staphylococcus aureus, 8-10 hours for Clostridium and 12-72 hours for Salmonella.
Most of the treatment of gastroenteritis is home care. You need to drink as many clear liquids as possible to avoid dehydration. If it appears to be a viral gastroenteritis, you can take anti diarrhoea medication but this is not recommended for bacterial infections because you want to shed the bacterium and its toxin as quickly as possible. Pain medications can be taken and medications for nausea are good choices.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here