What is Astrovirus?
Astrovirus is an RNA virus which mainly affects the intestinal system. The infection is quite prevalent in children aged between 1 and 10 years. While the virus may also affect adults, infection in adults is quite rare.
In terms of physical appearance, the virus is tiny, round in shape and has a star-like form. In order to see the virus, you need to view it under an electronic microscope. Since the virus has a single-strand RNA genome, it can survive for prolonged periods of time in a surrounding that experiences temperatures less than 20 degrees Celsius. It is for this reason that the virus is quite common during the cold winter months.
What Causes the Virus?
The virus can be triggered as a result of coming into contact with an infected person. Then again, infection can be transmitted through mother to fetus, kissing, blood transfusion, coming into contact with vomit and fecal matters as well as contaminated surfaces, sexual intercourse, coughing and needles.
Given that Astrovirus virus can be spread with relative ease from one person to the other, it is important to observe hygiene. Infected person should try as much as possible to stay in quarantine until they have fully recovered. This is because transmission can still occur 2-3 weeks after treatment. Besides, contaminated surfaces should be disinfected so as to minimize spread through contact. Clothes and other attires of the infected person should be thoroughly cleaned in order to minimize spread via contact.
Infected persons should not be allowed to prepare or handle food which other people will be eating. Then again, thoroughly wash your hands after visiting the toilet with running water and antiseptic soap.
Effects of Astrovirus
The infection can cause a severe case of stomach flu, which is also commonly referred to as gastroenteritis. Diarrhea and vomiting are the other severe conditions that may be triggered by the virus. But, the form of diarrhea and vomiting triggered by Astrovirus cannot be compared to the type which is caused by rotavirus. While there is not treatment for this kind of infection, there are medications that can be used to manage the symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Astrovirus
Prior to any kind of treatment, your doctor has to first of all identify the symptoms you have been suffering from. Listed below are some of the common signs and symptoms that most people who suffer from the infection display: Watery diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, intestinal pains, fever and unexplained weight loss.
Normally, the symptoms start to manifest 1-2 days after the initial exposure. The manifestation of the symptoms is an indication that the virus is shedding and as such you may continue to experience fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea for a couple of days.
When Should You See a Doctor?
More than often, the virus will clear on its own after 2-3 days without any kind of treatment. However, severe cases of vomiting and diarrhea ought to be treated by a doctor. Note that, if left untreated vomiting and diarrhea can cause serious weight loss, dehydration or even death. Therefore, you need to see a doctor the instant you notice the above symptoms in your child or blood in their vomits or fecal matter.
How to prepare for a Doctor’s Appointment
The signs and symptoms of Astrovirus are quite similar to those displayed by other types of viruses like Norovirus and Sapovirus. Hence, it is important to prepare well for the doctor’s appointment in order to get the proper treatment. Listed below are some of the details which you need to have at hand when walking into a doctor’s office:
– When did you first notice vomiting, diarrhea and fever in your child?
– What is the frequency of vomiting and diarrhea?
– Have you noticed blood in your child’s vomit or fecal matter?
Test and Diagnosis
Usually, the signs and symptoms are enough to confirm diagnosis. But, if your doctor wants to make certain that this is a case of Astrovirus and not any other form of infection, then he or she may decide to analyze sample stool under an electronic microscope. Once diagnosis is confirmed, the right treatment will be prescribed.
Treatment for Astrovirus
Doctors and scientists largely regard Astrovirus as a self-limiting and minor infection. As such, there are no medications that are usually given. But, the doctor may decide to prescribe a couple of over-the-counter medications in order to manage the symptoms, especially if your child is experiencing vomiting and diarrhea.
The saying, “prevention is better than cure” is not in vain when it comes to Astrovirus. Since infection normally occurs through contact with an infected person, it is important to observe personal hygiene. Listed below are tips on how to ensure the spread of the infection is curbed:
Wash your hands with soap and running water before handling and preparing food. It’s quite easy to infect your household when preparing food with contaminated hands. As a matter of fact, infected persons should not be allowed to come into contact with communal food. They should try as much as possible to stay in quarantine until they are fully cured.
Wash your hands after visiting the toilet. Since the virus sheds through fecal matter, it is important to wash your hands with antiseptic soap after visiting the toilet. Even though you may not be handling or preparing food, you can still spread the infection by greeting another person.
Disinfect contaminated surfaces. If a child vomits or diarrheas in a place, it should be disinfected in order to minimize spread through contact.
Since the infection is quite common during cold winter months and autumn, it is important that you observe high levels of hygiene during these times. For instance, try as much as possible to avoid crowded areas. Because of the chill associated with winter and autumn, people like gathering in small and confined spaces in order to get warmth. Limit your appearances in such places since the virus can easily be spread in a crowded area.