Gastroenteritis is an illness of the stomach and intestines, often caused by a virus. Some gastroenteritis infections tend to occur during the cooler months of the year (October to April). Although some people refer to gastroenteritis as the “stomach flu,” it is not the same as influenza or the flu, which is a respiratory illness. Information about gastroenteritis, including symptoms, treatment and prevention, is available on the Department of Health’s website, www.aahealth.org. Click on “Gastroenteritis” under “In the News.”
The symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, low-grade fever, chills, muscle aches, headache and tiredness. Symptoms usually begin about 24 to 48 hours after infection, but can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure. People with gastroenteritis are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after recovery. Gastroenteritis can be spread person-to-person easily.
The Department of Health offers these tips to help prevent the spread of gastroenteritis:
• Stay home while sick.
• Frequently wash your hands, especially after toilet visits, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
• Carefully wash fruit and vegetables, and cook oysters and shellfish before eating them.
• Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
• Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with the virus after an episode of illness. Use hot water and soap.
• Flush or discard any vomit or stool in the toilet, and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
For more information on communicable diseases and Department of Health services, visit the Department’s website, www.aahealth.org.