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Gastrointestinal Infections And Personal Hygiene Practices

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Gastrointestinal Infections And Personal Hygiene Practices

Have you been eating out a lot lately and are experiencing much fluid outgo in the form of vomiting and diarrhoea?

Did the start of the rainy season bring about unhealthy changes in you which are accompanied by nausea, stomach cramps,  fever, headache, watery stools with or without blood/mucus, and vomiting?

If your answer to the above is a ‘Yes’ and if you feel that these conditions have been ongoing without any scope of slowing down, then we recommend you to go through this blog.

What is a gastrointestinal infection?

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Infection of the digestive tract is quite common. Infections related to the gastrointestinal tract are not always severe and often resolve quickly with exception to diarrhoea, which is the leading cause of death in developing countries. Diarrhoea can be transmitted to humans via food, water and from person to person (contagious).

Many of these infections go away without an event and do not require treatment while some may spread to other parts of the body and need to be treated to prevent further damage. The main problem we face of gastroenteritis is dehydration, but this can be prevented by taking plenty of fluids. If a patient has difficulty drinking fluids (For eg: A person suffering from severe gastroenteritis), the same can be administered intravenously (directly into the bloodstream via a vein).

Gastrointestinal infections are manifold, and there are several ways to differentiate these conditions. Some classify them according to their location in the intestine (small or large intestine), depending on their mode of contamination (via food or by water), while others treat this disease based on what the infectious agent does (intoxication, gastroenteritis, inflammatory diarrhoea, or enteric fever). All these modes of categorising this etiology are used to help doctors determine the possible cause of symptoms.

Common Causes of Gastrointestinal Infections:

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There are a large number of microbes responsible for intestinal diseases. Gastroenteritis is one such common disease which results in inflammation of the gastric mucosa (soft, sticky layer lining the stomach) and small and large intestines.

Some of the causes of infection in the stomach include bacteria, virus, parasites, food toxicity,  and some drugs. Bacteria (Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Shigella), viruses (Norwalk agent, Rotavirus) and parasites (Giardia, Entamoeba, Ascaris) can cause intestinal disease. Most cases of intestinal infections cause diarrhoea or dysentery, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. If there is an infection in the small intestine, the symptoms include watery diarrhoea and vomiting. Infections in the large intestine usually result in dysentery (stools with reduced volume accompanied by mucus and recurrent blood).

Not all of these diseases are a result of infection, but also occur due to toxins in food (staphylococcal food poisoning). Usually, symptoms of food poisoning (vomiting, diarrhoea) occur briefly (for about 1 to 8 hours) after the consumption of food with toxins.

Bacterial GI Infections:

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Bacterial gastroenteritis occurs when bacteria cause infection in the intestine.

Numerous bacteria can cause gastroenteritis, including:

1. E. coli: A significant cause of diarrhoea in travellers and the leading cause of diarrhoea in developing countries, especially in children. People are usually infected with E. coli by swallowing water contaminated with human or animal faeces. Mostly caused by travelling.

Symptoms: different species of E Coli causes various symptoms; they are:

  • Enterohemorrhagic E. coli: Causes Bloody Diarrhea
  • Enterotoxigenic E. coli: Causes watery diarrhoea.
  • Enteroaggregative E. coli: Causes diarrhoea of lesser severity
  • Enteropathogenic E. coli:  Causes watery diarrhoea.
  • Enteroinvasive E. coli: Causes bloody or non-bloody diarrhoea.

2. Campylobacter: The most common causes of bacterial gastroenteritis found globally, and is common in children under the age of two.

Symptoms: Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and fever. Usually, it is transmitted through raw meat (especially poultry) and contaminated milk.

3. Salmonella: It is a foodborne disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Salmonella is found in raw meat such as poultry and seafood, eggs, as well as in milk and dairy products.

Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, fever, and headaches.

4. Staphylococcus Aureus: A significant cause of food poisoning, These pathogens are found in humans (skin, infected wounds, nose, and throat) and are associated with various foods, including meat and meat products, poultry and egg products, salads, baked foods, and dairy products.

Symptoms: characterised by the violent onset of severe nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhoea was lasting 1-2 days.

5. Shigella: A food-borne GI illnesses. Commonly found in water contaminated with human water.

Symptoms: Include abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhoea, fever, vomiting and blood, pus or mucus in the stool.

6. Yersinia: Also known as Yersinia enterocolitica (Yersiniosis) causes diarrhoea and abdominal pain, which is relatively rare. Infection is most often caused by eating contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked pork products, ice cream, and milk.

Symptoms: Fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea, which often bleed.

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An epidemic of bacterial gastroenteritis can occur when a restaurant offers infected food to many people.  Bacterial infections can be easily transmitted from person to person if someone carries bacteria in his hand. If someone infected with this bacterium touches food, objects or other people, there is a risk that the infection will spread to other people. You can even cause the infection into your own body when you touch open parts like your eyes, mouth, or other body parts with the infected hand.

You are especially at risk of this infection if you frequently travel or live in crowded areas. If you regularly wash your hands and use hand sanitizers that contain more than 60% alcohol, you can avoid infection by people in your area.

Viral GI Infections:

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Norovirus: It is the leading cause of foodborne illness caused by a virus. This is very likely to spread in limited spaces of people. Although in most cases, the virus spreads through contaminated food or water, transmission from human to human is also possible.

Rotavirus: A  leading cause of viral gastroenteritis in children throughout the world. Infants and young children are usually infected if they touch an infected object and then put their fingers in their mouth. In some countries, there is a vaccine against rotavirus, but it causes more than half a million deaths in children less than five every year worldwide.

Symptoms caused by Virus:

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Although commonly referred to as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis is not the same as influenza. Real flu (influenza) only affects your respiratory system viz: Nose, throat, and lungs. Gastroenteritis, on the other hand, affects the intestines and causes signs and symptoms such as:

  • Occasional muscle aches or headache
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea, vomiting, or both
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Watery diarrhoea, usually non-bloody
  • Bloody diarrhoea, if present,  means more severe infection

Depending on the cause, symptoms of viral gastroenteritis can occur within one to three days after infection, ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms usually only last one or two days, but sometimes can last up to 10 days.

Because the symptoms are similar, it is easy to confuse viral diarrhoea with diarrhoea caused by bacteria such as Clostridium difficile, Salmonella and E. coli or parasites such as Giardia.

Parasite GI Infections:

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Giardiasis: Giardia is a parasitic intestinal infection that is easily spread by contact with humans and contaminated water. It is chlorine resistant and can be spread in public baths like a swimming pool. Infection can be caused by drinking water and bathing in contaminated lakes and rivers, caring for infected animals or changing baby diapers and not washing the hands.

Cryptosporidium: Cryptosporidium is a major cause of water-borne diseases, which are microscopic parasites that cause cryptosporidiosis. It has an outer shell that facilitates survival outside the host and tolerates chlorine disinfection.

When to See Your Doctor:

If it is Adult See your doctor right away if you have:

  • Fever above 104°F
  • Vomiting for more than 48 hours
  • If you see blood in vomiting
  • Becoming dehydrated
  • Extreme weakness, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Blood in your bowel movements

If it is a Children See your paediatrician right away if they have:

  • Fever of above 102°F
  • Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
  • If he feels lethargic
  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • When Dehydrated

If it is Infants Get your baby to their paediatrician right away if they have:

  • Vomiting
  • unable to urine and if they do not wet diaper in six hours
  • Severe diarrhoea
  • Bloody stools
  • Unresponsive
  • If he feels drowsy or sleepy

Treatment for Gastrointestinal Infection Include:

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  • Rehydration: Give plenty of fluids orally and sometimes intravenous.
  • Antibiotics are only recommended in bacterial infections, or if a specific bacteria has been identified as the cause. This is not prescribed for overuse, which may cause side effects and the risk of bacteria developing resistance. Not usually recommended in viral infections as they do not affect viral infections.
  • Fibre-rich foods can make diarrhoea worse so your doctor may suggest that you stay away from fibre-rich foods.
  • The treating doctor may also recommend prescription drugs that neutralise stomach acid or treat nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea.
  • The most important treatment for adults and children with GI infections is to stay hydrated.


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The best ways to prevent gastrointestinal infection include:

  • Proper hand-washing
  • Disinfecting of contaminated surfaces with bleach
  • Washing of clothes neatly
  • Identifying infected patients and be away from them as it is contagious,  and as soon as possible implement infection control protocol.
  • Wash food raw-material before cooking and cook at optimum temperature


As detailed above, gastric infections are quite common. While some warrant treatment, others tend to go away. The key to not contract a gastric infection is to be cautious. The medium of passage for a bacteria or a virus or a parasite into our stomach is our hands, so washing hands every time they go into our mouth should be practised.

The other key precaution, among others, is to keep our surroundings clean and tidy, especially make sure water doesn’t stagnate, which is an ideal breeding ground for microorganisms. Monsoon season has started giving ample chances for us, especially children, to fall prey to stomach infections among other seasonal health conditions. Hence, it is important to be cautious more so than ever. Also, any stomach infection results in diarrhoea and vomiting, therefore, taking in plenty of fluids (water, fresh fruit juices, energy drinks etc.) not only keeps the body hydrated but also replenishes the lost minerals from the body.

If you believe that you have symptoms of a gastric infection or a condition with symptoms that are emanating from a gastric disorder, please contact us for expert Doctor advice at Sunshine Hospital, 04044550000.

About the Doctor:

Dr. Nagarjuna Yarlagadda – Gastroenterologist

Dr. Nagarjuna Yarlagadda is a reputed Gastroenterologist at Sunshine Hospitals, Gachibowli. After getting his MBBS degree from Rangaraya Medical College in Kakinada, he earned his MD from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Chandigarh Dr Nagarjuna has 25 years of experience. He served as Additional Professor of Gastroenterology at  NIMS (Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences) and was a consultant gastroenterologist at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) for 14 years and has rich teaching experience as well. He also serves as a member of the Indian Society of Gastroenterology, INASL and SGI. He has published papers and trials in national and international journals.

About Sunshine Hospitals:

A Multi Super Speciality Institution, 500 bedded Sunshine Hospitals (Paradise Circle, Secunderabad) is promoted by globally reputed Joint Replacement Surgeon Dr AV Gurava Reddy (Orthopedic Doctor) and like-minded associates who share the objective of making world-standard healthcare available, affordable and accessible to the common man. Sunshine has now become one of the best hospitals for many treatments including Orthopedic, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Trauma and Neurology.

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