Intestinal Virus

Everything You Need to Know About an Intestinal Virus

An intestinal virus is known as viral gastroenteritis by doctors, although it’s commonly known as the stomach flu.  Gastroenteritis technically means inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and viruses are often the cause of this inflammation.  

There are two major forms of an intestinal virus.  If it’s sporadic, then it affects babies under the age of two.  The other major form of intestinal viruses is epidemic, and this one is commonly known as the stomach flu or intestinal flu, although both terms are technically wrong because influenza is actually more of a respiratory illness than a digestive one. 

Symptoms of both kinds of gastroenteritis are vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever.  Usually the symptoms are the worst about 12 to 24 hours into the illness but get better slowly, with diarrhea lasting up to two days or over a week in small children.  The most common cause of intestinal virus is eating food that was prepared by someone who is sick with the virus.  Gastroenteritis is very contagious, and it can still be contagious even after symptoms are gone, sometimes up to two weeks afterward.  It’s pretty common for this illness to cause outbreaks at schools, daycares, and workplaces, so you may catch it if it seems to be going around.

Usually an intestinal virus is diagnosed through symptoms, although a stool sample may be tested to make sure the bug that’s causing it is viral and not bacterial.  This is because antibiotics will treat a bacterial infection, although the only way to get through a viral one is to simply suffer through it.  

Common viruses that cause gastroenteritis are the rotavirus, adenovirus, calicivirus, and astrovirus.  Of these four viruses, the only one that commonly affects adults is the calicivirus, which can be segmented further into four times, which include norovirus, which is the most common.

If you catch an intestinal virus, focus on drinking lots of liquids like water and Gatorade to keep yourself hydrated and replenish your electrolytes.  You also may want to temporarily switch to a bland diet of clear liquids, bananas, toast, and apples.  Over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication can help control the symptoms somewhat, although some can reduce your ability to fight off infection.  You should check with your doctor or pharmacist to see which one is safe to take.

The best way to prevent gastroenteritis is simply to wash your hands.  A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for about 20 seconds after you use the bathroom and before eating.  Also disinfect your countertops frequently and avoid foods and drinks that may be contaminated.

Gastroenteritis is the second most common illness in the United States, and it’s responsible for millions of cases of diarrhea each year.  In most cases, an intestinal virus is not serious, although it can cause severe symptoms in elderly people and small children.  The most important thing to remember is to drink plenty of fluids.  This will help you avoid any serious complications from this illness.