There are many types of the stomach flu virus, which enter the gastrointestinal tract and find their way to the stomach and the intestine, where they incubate and multiply. The symptoms of the infection are manifested a few hours or a few days after the virus enters the organs. All the types of stomach flu virus attack the cells which line the walls of the small intestine. This causes the fluids to leak from the cells into the intestine, resulting in watery stools or diarrhea. This is why the symptoms of each virus are quite similar.
Listed below are the main types of stomach flu viruses.
- Rotavirus is the main virus which causes stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis, as it is also known as, in infants and toddlers. It causes vomiting and watery diarrhea which typically lasts for three days to a week. These symptoms appear a day or two after exposure to the virus. The child can also experience abdominal pain and fever, depending on the severity of the infection. Adults who are in close contact with the infected child are at risk of contracting the infection. The incubation period of this virus is about forty eight hours.
- Caliciviruses are a family of viruses, some of which commonly cause stomach flu. The norovirus is the most common of these and it may typically cause an epidemic of gastroenteritis. The incubation period of this virus is twelve to forty eight hours after which the symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills and abdominal pain are manifested. Other viruses in this family are the Norwalk virus and the Sapovirus. People suffering from norovirus may be contagious for two or three days after the symptoms have stopped. The viruses in this family can withstand freezing so they can be present in ice cubes or other frozen food. They are killed by boiling.
- Astrovirus infects infants, young children and the elderly. It has an incubation period of one to five days. It is most active during winter and the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting usually appear within three days of exposure.
- Adenovirus has about forty nine varieties and there are only two strains which cause gastroenteritis. It infects mainly infants and it has an incubation period of about a week. The symptoms like diarrhea can last for about one to two weeks. It takes a week after exposure for the symptoms to show.
All the stomach flu viruses attack the cells which line the small intestine. This causes the fluids from the cells to leak into the intestine which in turn results in watery diarrhea.
Stomach flu virus can spread from one person to the other through contaminated water and food. Infection can also spread through unwashed hands, eating utensils like spoons, plates, glasses and cups which are shared with infected people. A person can still be contagious for a couple of weeks after the symptoms of stomach flu have cleared. The stomach flu virus can be found in the stool after they recover from the illness.
Stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis can occur in places where people gather in groups. People can be exposed to the stomach flu virus in hospitals, schools, playgroups, cruise ships, camps, dormitories, restaurants and even in households.
An infection with the stomach flu virus can be avoided by following simple rules of hygiene. Hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and warm water, after using the bathroom and also before and after eating. Kitchen and bathroom surfaces should be disinfected daily. Hygiene should be maintained while cooking and storing food and drinking water. Care should be taken to wash hands after attending to an infected person.
The stomach flu virus can infect infants and young children as well as adults and the symptoms can be treated with simple home remedies, without medication.