RICE & MICE: The stomach flu

There’s a flu bug making its insidious mid-Winter circuit around the Flyers locker room.

Ilya Bryzgalov had it and Jaromir Jagr missed practice today (on his 40th birthday no less) while apparently recovering from it. I’m not certain if it’s really the flu, as in the influenza virus, and I’m not sure that anyone other than the players and medical staff really know, but I thought I’d share one of the illnesses I’m seeing a lot of lately in clinic and discuss some of the symptoms.

Gastroenteritis means irritation or inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Gastroenteritis may be viral (caused by a virus), bacterial (caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics) or parasitic (caused by parasites and treatable with medication). Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses and causes vomiting and/or diarrhea.

It is often called the “stomach flu,” although it is not caused by the influenza viruses. The viruses that are responsible for many cases of gastroenteritis are rotavirus, norovirus or adenovirus. Most people are vaccinated to protect against against severe diarrhea from rotavirus infection in infants and young children with other childhood vaccines in their first 12 months. There are no vaccines for norovirus or adenovirus.

Symptoms may include abdominal pain or cramping, nausea and vomiting followed by watery diarrhea. The sick person may also have a fever, headache and body aches. Bloody diarrhea or stool is usually a sign of a bacterial infection and needs to be treated with antibiotics. In general, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days following infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness.

Dehydration is a concern with nausea and vomiting and if the sick person is unable to replace lost fluid by drinking, IV (intreavenous) fluid replacement may be necessary. Viral gastroenteritis is very contagious and spread through close contact with infected persons or by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages.
Norovirus may occur year-round however, outbreaks generally increase in the fall and winter and tend to spread quickly in schools, daycares, nursing homes, cruise ships, dorms and sometimes hotels. Viral gastroenteritis is usually diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms and examination of the patient. Treatment is directed at preventing dehydration and letting the virus runs its course.

To prevent the spread of viral gastroenteritis; wash your hands! Wash yout hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Do not share drinks, eating utensils or food – remember symptoms usually start 1-2 days after infection. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are better than nothing, but good hand hygiene is key.

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