Stomach Flu? No Such Thing!

10 12 2015

The next time your friend says she has stomach flu, you can look her in the eye and say, “Nah, don’t think so. There’s no such thing!”

What she probably has is viral gastroenteritis. In other words, a gastro bug.

The field of gastroenterology has to do with upsets in the stomach and intestines, and it’s called ‘gastro’ for short.

Gastro bugs are caused by any number of viruses, including norovirus and rotavirus.

These bugs that upset our stomach and intestines can be found in the food we eat or the water we drink. They’re primarily spread through the fecal-oral route. This happens when someone who is infected doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet, and teeny bits of poop are transferred from his hands to the food he’s preparing. We then eat that food and become infected ourselves.

Or, an infected person who hasn’t cleaned her hands after using the toilet might simply touch a surface, such as a tabletop or doorknob, and contaminate it with a one of these viruses. We then come along and touch the same surface. The virus is introduced to our system when we touch our mouth or nose or eyes.

Symptoms of a gastro bug include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Body aches

Gastro bugs and flu share some symptoms, which may explain the conviction held by many that they have “stomach flu” when what they really have is a gastro bug.BristolStoolChart

If you pick up such a bug, you’ll want to watch out for dehydration. With diarrhea and vomiting, it’s likely that you’ll be low on fluids. You should drink sports drinks and oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter.

Pay attention to how you feel because dehydration isn’t something to ignore. It can quickly go from mild to serious. Check with your healthcare provider to determine treatment options.

Your provider will probably suggest certain foods, such as bread, cereal, bananas, and other items, to counteract the diarrhea. If necessary, there are OTC medications to slow diarrhea, or if the infection progresses, prescription drugs may be needed, or even hospitalization.

One thing that you won’t use to fight a gastro bug is antibiotics. Gastro bugs are usually caused by viruses, and antibiotics only fight bacteria.

Clean hands are the best prevention, along with vaccination when available (babies can be vaccinated against rotavirus).

Visit NIH for more information on gastro bugs.

 

by Trish Parnell





Gastro Bugs

17 09 2012

There is no such thing as “stomach flu,” despite the cavalier use of the phrase in some circles. What’s really going on is usually viral gastroenteritis.

Viral gastroenteritis isn’t caused by just one thing—it can be the result of any one of many different viruses, such as norovirus or rotavirus.

A gastro bug, as I like to call it, can be in the food or water we consume and will most commonly cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and/or abdominal pain or discomfort.

Sometimes, it can also cause you to have a fever or chills, clammy skin, muscle or joint pain, and may put you off your feed. (That’s a “duh,” isn’t it!)

With liquids of various sorts pouring out of you, dehydration is a concern. Here are the signs, symptoms, and potential treatments to consider, as specified by NIH:

Signs and tests

The healthcare provider will look for signs of dehydration, including:

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Lethargy or coma (severe dehydration)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low or no urine output; concentrated urine that looks dark yellow
  • Markedly sunken soft spots (fontanelles) on the top of an infant’s head
  • No tears
  • Sunken eyes

Tests that examine stool samples may be used to identify which virus is causing the sickness. This is usually not needed for viral gastroenteritis. A stool culture may be done to find out whether diarrhea are causing the problem.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration by making sure the body has enough water and fluids. Fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting must be replaced by drinking extra fluids. Even if you are able to eat, you should still drink extra fluids between meals.

  • Older children and adults can drink sports beverages such as Gatorade, but these should not be used for younger children. Instead, use the electrolyte and fluid replacement solutions or freezer pops available in food and drug stores.
  • Do NOT use fruit juice (including apple juice), sodas or cola (flat or bubbly), Jell-O, or broth. All of these have a lot of sugar, which makes diarrhea worse, and they don’t replace lost minerals.
  • Drink small amounts of fluid (2-4 oz.) every 30-60 minutes. Do not try to force large amounts of fluid at one time, which can cause vomiting. Use a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or small child.
  • Breast milk or formula can be continued along with extra fluids. You do NOT need to switch to a soy formula.

Food may be offered often in small amounts. Suggested foods include:

  • Cereals, bread, potatoes, lean meats
  • Plain yogurt, bananas, fresh apples
  • Vegetables

People with diarrhea who are unable to drink fluids because of nausea may need intravenous (directly into a vein) fluids. This is especially true in small children.

Antibiotics do not work for viruses.

Drugs to slow down the amount of diarrhea (anti-diarrheal medications) should not be given without first talking with your healthcare provider. DO NOT give these anti-diarrheal medications to children unless directed to do so by a healthcare provider.

People taking water pills (diuretics) who develop diarrhea may be told by their healthcare provider to stop taking the diuretic during the acute episode. However, DO NOT stop taking any prescription medicine without first talking to your healthcare provider.

The risk of dehydration is greatest in infants and young children, so parents should closely monitor the number of wet diapers changed per day when their child is sick.

You can buy medicines at the drugstore that can help stop or slow diarrhea.

  • Do not use these medicines without talking to your healthcare provider if you have bloody diarrhea, a fever, or if the diarrhea is severe.
  • Do not give these medicines to children.

Viral gastroenteritis can become a serious illness, so watch for the symptoms and alert your healthcare provider if symptoms worsen.

Washing hands is the best prevention, along with vaccination when available (babies can be vaccinated against rotavirus).

Visit these websites for more information on gastro bugs

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001298/
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/gastro/faq.htm
By Trish Parnell (really by the NIH with a few asides from me)

Image courtesy of Examiner





It’s Global Handwashing Day!

15 10 2008

Here’s what Nancy L. Pontius reported on America.gov:

Littleton, Colorado — Every year, diarrhea and pneumonia kill more than 3.5 million children under age 5 worldwide. Many of them could have been saved by the simple act of washing hands.

Studies have shown that handwashing with soap can cut deaths from diarrhea by almost 50 percent and deaths from acute respiratory infections by 25 percent — saving more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. The challenge is to transform handwashing with soap from an abstract idea into an automatic behavior in homes, schools and communities worldwide.

To promote this life-saving habit, millions of children in 20 countries across five continents will participate in the first Global Handwashing Day on October 15. Supporters of the event will focus on mobilizing school children worldwide to wash their hands with soap to increase the practice of this important behavior.

Global Handwashing Day is supported by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW).  Established in 2001, partnership members include the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), World Bank, Water and Sanitation Program, UNICEF, Unilever, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

“Global Handwashing Day is designed to bring international and individual country attention to this critical public health intervention,” John Borrazzo, chief of the Maternal and Child Health Division, USAID Bureau for Global Health, told America.gov.

The event supports the 2008 World Water Week conference’s international focus for this year on sanitation. (See “2008 World Water Week Highlights Water-Related Challenges.”)

“Global Handwashing Day is important because diarrhea still unnecessarily kills 1.6 million children a year, and we know that effective handwashing with soap can prevent almost 50 percent of these diarrhea [illnesses],” Borrazzo said. “Recent research results also show that effective handwashing by birth attendants and mothers may reduce newborn deaths — which globally total 4 million a year — by as much as 40 percent.”

OBSERVANCES PLANNED AROUND THE WORLD

During the week of October 15th, from India to Egypt, Peru to China, Indonesia to Ethiopia, high-profile promotional and educational activities are planned for school children, teachers and parents — joined by government officials and celebrities — to raise awareness that handwashing with soap is a powerful public health intervention.

In Madagascar, President Marc Ravalomanana and the government of Madagascar worked with the USAID Hygiene Improvement Project (HIP), local soap companies, the media and others to plan an all-out national weeklong celebration of Global Handwashing Day. During the week of October 15, all of Madagascar’s 19,300 primary schools will participate in the activities, culminating with 3.5 million children all washing their hands at noon on Global Handwashing Day. A parade of schoolchildren through the capital also is planned for October 15.

In Pakistan, the country’s vision for Global Handwashing Day is to have 1 million school children across the country all wash their hands on October 15. This will be accomplished through many local groups and school programs working with members of the PPPHW, including USAID and multinational consumer products maker Procter & Gamble.

USAID’s Pakistan Safe Drinking Water and Hygiene Promotion Project (PSDW-HPP) plans to celebrate with 65 partner nongovernmental, community and government organizations. Planned activities include interactive theater performances, speeches from community leaders and creative classroom activities to complement the interactive hygiene curriculum currently used by PSDW-HPP in more than 20,000 schools. School activities will end with an oath to always wash hands with soap at critical times and to help others to do so.
Procter & Gamble intends to teach 75,000 Pakistani children via its Safeguard Schools Program on October 15.

INTERNATIONAL HYGIENE EDUCATION PROJECTS

For many years, U.S. public and private organizations have joined with other countries to help develop the vital habit of handwashing with soap.

“USAID has long recognized the importance of incorporating hygiene education and handwashing promotion as part of both maternal and child programs, and water supply and sanitation activities,” Borrazzo said. “We have worked for over a decade with many international partners to encourage handwashing, including promotion through the community, private sector, health facilities and schools.”

For example, USAID has been assisting with hygiene-behavior education through one component of USAID’s participation in the $59 million West Africa Water Initiative (WAWI) that began in 2002. WAWI’s 13 partner organizations — including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, World Vision, UNICEF, USAID, WaterAid, Winrock International and World Chlorine Council — work in Ghana, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Multiple USAID programs partner with international organizations in many countries to carry out relevant hygiene education and sanitation programs, including in Ethiopia, Nepal, Madagascar, Pakistan and Indonesia.

“School programs that teach the benefits of handwashing and effective handwashing techniques have been shown to increase handwashing behavior,” Jay Gooch, associate director of external relations for Procter & Gamble, told America.gov. “Young people are the most effective age group to reach to develop this habit,” he said.

In Pakistan, 7.5 million schoolchildren have participated in Procter & Gamble’s Safeguard Schools Program since 2003. In a country where more than 250,000 Pakistani children die from diarrhea annually, the practice of handwashing could save many lives.

In China, more than 24 million school children have participated in Procter & Gamble’s Safeguard Schools Program since 1999.

More information is available on the Web sites for Global Handwashing Day and the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap.