Combating the Stomach Flu

February 3, 2012 4:42:16 AM PST
Dr. Zahrain St. Jean, of Metrosouth Medical Center, stops by the ABC7 studios to talk about detecting flu and how it should be treated.

WHAT: Stomach flu

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Virus

Norovirus is one of many viruses that is sometimes called the 'stomach flu' or 'food poisoning.' It is not related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The influenza vaccine is readily available, but there is no vaccine for most viruses that cause stomach flu. (The rotovirus vaccine is given to babies up to 8 months)

Stomach flu - or norovirus -- symptoms include: * nausea
* vomiting
* diarrhea
* stomach pain
* may include headache and fever less than 100 degrees

You can contract the stomach flu - or norovirus -- by: * Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with the virus (someone gets stool or vomit on their hands, then touches food or drink).
* Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth.
* Having direct contact with a person who is infected with the virus (for example, when caring for someone with the virus or sharing foods or eating utensils with them).

Is there a difference between stomach flu and food poisoning? - It is true that food poisoning can be caused by noroviruses. But, other germs and chemicals can also cause food poisoning. The symptoms are similar: a sudden onset of vomiting, diarrhea and that passes within 24-48 hours after contamination.

When to seek a doctor or emergency care

Dehydration is probably the biggest concern. Symptoms of dehydration include: -a decrease in urination
-a dry mouth and throat
- feeling dizzy when standing up
- Children who are dehydrated may also cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids. Oral rehydration fluids are the most helpful for severe dehydration. But other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. However, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals that are lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.

You should also tell your doctor about a persistent temperature over 100 degrees.

Do the same rules apply to children? (signs, symptoms, treatment)

Norovirus illness is usually not serious. Most people get better in 1- to 2 days. But, norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions; it can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

Prevention tips?

There is no vaccine for the stomach flu - or norovirus -- so be sure to: * Practice proper hand hygiene
* Wash your hands ( carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
* Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
* Do not prepare food while infected and for 3 days after.
* Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
* Wash laundry thoroughly.

For more information, visit the following websites: