Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
- Definition of gastroenteritis
- What causes gastroenteritis?
- What are the most common causes of gastroenteritis?
- What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
- Is gastroenteritis contagious?
- Who is at risk for gastroenteritis?
- How is gastroenteritis transmitted?
- How does food become contaminated with gastroenteritis bacteria or viruses?
- How is gastroenteritis diagnosed?
- How is gastroenteritis treated?
- When should I call my doctor for gastroenteritis?
- What are complications of gastroenteritis?
- Can gastroenteritis be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for gastroenteritis?
- Patient Comments: Gastroenteritis - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Gastroenteritis - Experience
- Patient Comments: Gastroenteritis - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Gastroenteritis - Diagnosed
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
Definition of gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis (often referred to as the "stomach flu," however, it is not related to the influenza virus) is a nonspecific term for various problems in the gastrointestinal tract with the most common symptoms and signs of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pains.
As previously mentioned, although it is not caused by influenza viruses, it is commonly referred to as the "stomach flu" because most people have acute symptoms that last a day or so, and then begin to resolve, like the more benign flu strains. In the U.S., less than 2% of the estimated 100 million persons with symptoms per year ever require hospitalization, but in developing countries it is a leading cause of death, mainly due to dehydration. Severe gastroenteritis can cause dehydration. Also, people with symptoms of diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever greater than 101 F (38.33 C) for longer than 5 days, or have severe infection (sepsis), and other problems will be considered to have another disease (for example, shigellosis). Not all doctors agree on the nonspecific term of gastroenteritis so for this article, the parameters are presented.
What causes gastroenteritis?
Infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses are the most frequent causes of gastroenteritis in the US and worldwide. Infections cause diarrhea and other symptoms by causing inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tissue. The infections increase the fluid content in the intestines and colon by changing the gastrointestinal tract's ability to absorb water and by increasing the speed of transit (motility) for things you ingest. This, in turn, causes diarrhea. Infectious agents may physically damage intestinal cells directly or indirectly with secreted toxins.
Viewers share their comments
Get the latest treatment options.