COMMUNITY HEALTH PROGRAM PROVIDES COMMUNITY WITH INFORMATION ON CAUSES OF GASTROINTESTINAL ILLNESSES AND PREVENTION
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Community Health Program (CHP) is providing the community with information on gastrointestinal illnesses, or “stomach flu,” and some tips on how to prevent it.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF GASTROINTESTINAL ILLNESS
- Stomach cramps
The onset of symptoms varies from a few hours to several days, or even weeks, after exposure.
CAUSES OF VIRAL GASTROENTERITIS
- Virus found in the vomit and diarrhea of an infected person.
- Virus can be spread by objects they touch, especially if the infected person doesn’t practice proper hand hygiene after bathroom use.
- Food workers can spread the infection through the food and beverages they touch.
- Sewage that gets into the water supply.
Viral gastroenteritis can live for a long time outside of the body on surfaces and high-touch locations. Seasonal influenza virus does not cause “stomach flu.”
COMMON VIRUSES THAT CAUSE GASTROENTERITIS
- Rotavirus: commonly infects infants age 3 to 15 months. Illness can last 3 – 7 days and is most common in fall and winter.
- Norovirus: most common cause of adult infections, and usually responsible for outbreaks on cruise ships. Symptoms last from 1 – 3 days and can occur any time of year.
- Adenovirus: occurs year-round and affects children under age 2. Symptoms last from 5 – 12 days.
HOW ARE GASTROINTESTINAL ILLNESSES SPREAD?
- Can be spread from person to person.
- Can be spread when an ill person does not wash their hands after using the toilet.
- Exposed individuals can be infected if they do not wash their hands before eating or touching their facial area.
- “Stomach flu” such as norovirus are often responsible for outbreaks of vomiting and/or diarrhea in schools; virus is easily transmitted from person to person or by exposure to food, water, or surfaces contaminated by an infected person.
GASTROINTESTINAL ILLNESS PREVENTION
- Vaccines are available to protect children from rotavirus; healthcare providers offer this vaccine at 2 months to 4 months of age.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after bathroom use, changing a diaper, and before touching any food.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- If someone in the household has gastroenteritis, wash all surfaces that might be contaminated with a bleach-based cleaner.
- Avoid any food or water with warnings of contamination.
HOW IS GASTROENTERITIS TREATED?
- Specific treatments are not usually required
- Drink plenty of fluids and rest until the virus leaves your system
- In rare cases, you may need treatment for severe dehydration with intravenous (IV) fluids
HELPFUL HOME CARE TIPS:
- Drink plenty of light fluids (water, ice chips, fruit juice, and broth); sports drinks are high in sugar and not appropriate if extremely dehydrated.
- Avoid drinks that contain milk, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Once you feel hungry again, start with mild, easy-to-digest foods.
- Rehydrate children with oral rehydration solutions.
- You should take your child straight to the nearest emergency medical provider if they have the following symptoms:
- has refused to drink for more than 4 – 6 hours
- moderate to severe signs of dehydration
- signs of mental confusion, dizziness, or headache
- blood in the stool or vomit
- black stools
- vomit is bright green
- your child has chronic disease, a weakened immune system, or an immunodeficiency disorder AND has a temperature higher than 101.3 °F (38.5 °C)
*Source: Caring for Kids, hopkinsmedical.org
If you have any questions regarding gastrointestinal illness, please contact the Community Health Program at 613-575-2341 ext. 3220.