A – Z of Illnesses & Conditions

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Gastroenteritis:  Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach, intestines or both.  The main causes of gastroenteritis are viruses, followed by bacteria. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramp. Gastroenteritis disease is very contagious (capable of being passed from person to person or animal by touching) if caused by viruses and bacteria.

Gastroenteritis usually is not a serious illness unless the affected person becomes dehydrated. Most food, fluids and other items become contaminated with causative agents of gastroenteritis from direct or indirect contact with a person that has the disease.  Most individuals have some risk of encountering gastroenteritis. People that live in close contact with others (for example, live on a ship, in a dorm, or barracks) have a higher risk.

Preventing gastroenteritis: As gastroenteritis is highly infectious, it is important to take steps to prevent it spreading to other people. These preventions include:
  •     washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an antibacterial hand wash after going to the toilet and before     eating or preparing food
  •     cleaning the toilet, including the handle and the seat, with disinfectant after each bout of vomiting or diarrhea
  •     not sharing towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils with other members of your household
  •     not returning to work until you have had no symptoms for at least 48 hours

If your symptoms are severe or last longer than a few days, your doctor may ask for a stool sample so that it can be checked for a specific bacterium or parasite. If a bacterium or parasite is identified, appropriate medication can be prescribed to treat the infection. In some cases, blood tests and urine tests may be used to rule out other conditions.

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