Stomach infections

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Overview

Gastrointestinal infections, especially diarrheal diseases, are responsible for substantial morbidity and mortality worldwide. A wide array of bacterial, protozoal, and viral pathogens is responsible for gastrointestinal tract infections. Young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised patients are at greatest risk for more severe disease and complications. Poor sanitation, inadequate water supplies, and increasing globalization of food transport systems all predispose to the development of large epidemics of food- and waterborne outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease. Success of treatment, when clinically indicated, is increasingly threatened by rising rates of antimicrobial resistance among gastrointestinal pathogens.

Symptoms

Watery, usually nonbloody diarrhea — bloody diarrhea usually means you have a different, more severe infection.

Nausea, vomiting or both.

Stomach cramps and pain.

Occasional muscle aches or headache.

Low-grade fever.

Causes

Many bacteria can cause gastroenteritis, including:

Yersinia, found in pork

Staphylococcus, found in dairy products, meat, and eggs

Shigella, found in water and often swimming pools

Salmonella, found in meat, dairy products, and eggs

Campylobacter, found in meat and poultry

E. coli, found in ground beef and salads

Bacterial gastroenteritis outbreaks can happen when restaurants serve contaminated food to many people. An outbreak can also trigger recalls of produce and other foods.

Bacteria that cause gastroenteritis can be easily transmitted from person to person if someone carries the bacteria on their hands.

Every time a person with a bacterial infection touches food, objects, or other people, the bacteria have a chance to be passed on to others. The bacteria can even be spread through your own body if you touch your eyes, mouth, or other open parts of your body with hands that already have an infection.

You’re especially at risk of these infections if you travel a lot or live in a densely populated area. Washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer with more than 60 percent alcohol can help you avoid contracting infections from other people and your surroundings.

Types of intestinal infections

Specific strains of bacteria can cause several types of intestinal infections.

Yersiniosis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source says that this infection occurs when you eat raw or undercooked pork contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica.

Yersiniosis symptoms can occur 4 to 7 days after you’re exposed. They may include:

fever

stomach pain

diarrhea

Staph food poisoning

Foods that are contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can cause staph food poisoning. These include:

meat

eggs

dairy products

Staph poisoning causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, according to the CDCTrusted Source. They can occur within hours of consuming food or drinks contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus.

If you do get staph food poisoning, know that severe illness is uncommon and symptoms don’t usually last longer than a day.

Shigellosis

The CDCTrusted Source says that drinking water containing Shigella bacteria can cause a type of infection called shigellosis.

Typically, shigellosis symptoms begin 1 day after infection and can last up to 7 days. They include:

fever

stomach cramps

diarrhea

Although most people don’t need antibiotics, they can help shorten the duration of symptoms. Your doctor may recommend them if you have a weakened immune system.

Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is a common infection that occurs when you eat foods contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. These may include:

meat

eggs

dairy products

certain vegetables, such as sprouts

The CDCTrusted Source estimates that Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections every year in the United States. This makes Salmonella one of the most common causes of foodborne illness.

Salmonellosis usually causes symptoms like cramps, fever, and diarrhea. They can occur between 6 hours and 6 days after infection and may last up to 1 week.

Campylobacteriosis

This type of intestinal infection is caused by the Campylobacter bacteria, the CDCTrusted Source says, which is most often found in undercooked meat and poultry.

Generally, symptoms begin 2 to 5 days after infection. They include:

fever

stomach cramps

nausea

vomiting

diarrhea

While most people recover from campylobacteriosis without treatment, others can have serious complications and may require antibiotics to get better.

E. coli infection

According to the CDCTrusted Source, E. coli infection occurs when you eat foods contaminated with bacteria called Escherichia coli. These bacteria are often found in beef, salads, and certain vegetables, such as sprouts.

If you have an E. coli infection, you might have symptoms like cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. These usually start about 3 to 4 days after you’re exposed.

Although most E. coli infections are mild, certain strains can cause serious complications which may require hospitalization.

Therefore, talk with your doctor if you:

are unable to keep down liquids

have bloody diarrhea

experience diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days and is accompanied by a high fever

Risk factors

If you have a weakened immune system because of an existing condition or treatment, you may have a higher risk of bacterial gastroenteritis. The risk also increases if you take drugs that decrease your stomach’s acidity.

Handling food incorrectly can also raise your risk of bacterial gastroenteritis. Food that’s undercooked, stored too long at room temperature, or not reheated well can aid in the spread and survival of bacteria.

Bacteria can produce harmful substances known as toxins. These toxins can remain even after reheating food.

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Complications

Bacterial gastroenteritis rarely causes complications in healthy adults and usually lasts less than a week.

Older adults or very young children are more vulnerable to the symptoms of gastroenteritis. They’re also at a higher risk of complications. If you have a loved one at a higher risk, keep a close eye on them so they can get medical care if they need it.

Complications of these infections include high fevers, muscle pain, and inability to control your bowel movements. Some bacterial infections can cause:

kidney failure

bleeding in your intestinal tract

anemia

Quickly seeking treatment for bacterial gastroenteritis lessens your risk of complications.Bacterial gastroenteritis rarely causes complications in healthy adults and usually lasts less than a week.

Older adults or very young children are more vulnerable to the symptoms of gastroenteritis. They’re also at a higher risk of complications. If you have a loved one at a higher risk, keep a close eye on them so they can get medical care if they need it.

Complications of these infections include high fevers, muscle pain, and inability to control your bowel movements. Some bacterial infections can cause:

kidney failure

bleeding in your intestinal tract

anemia

Quickly seeking treatment for bacterial gastroenteritis lessens your risk of complications.

Prevention

Bacterial gastroenteritis rarely causes complications in healthy adults and usually lasts less than a week.

Older adults or very young children are more vulnerable to the symptoms of gastroenteritis. They’re also at a higher risk of complications. If you have a loved one at a higher risk, keep a close eye on them so they can get medical care if they need it.

Complications of these infections include high fevers, muscle pain, and inability to control your bowel movements. Some bacterial infections can cause:

kidney failure

bleeding in your intestinal tract

anemia

Quickly seeking treatment for bacterial gastroenteritis lessens your risk of complications.