By Eric Nayup, Pharmacist

What is stomach flu?
Do you think you have the “stomach flu” or a “stomach bug”?

It is probably gastroenteritis, which is an intestinal infection that inflames your stomach and intestinal lining, resulting in cramps/pains, diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes fever.

Although germs like bacteria and parasites account for some cases, the Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in adults, affecting over a million Canadians each year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Cause of stomach flu:
People commonly call viral gastroenteritis “stomach flu,” but the term is not medically accurate. Viral gastroenteritis commonly infects intestines, not the stomach. It is not caused by influenza (flu) viruses. So, getting the annual flu vaccine does not protect you against viral gastroenteritis.

While in adults Novovirus cause most cases of gastroenteritis, Rotavirus is the most common cause of among kids.

How does it spread?
The norovirus is highly contagious. It spreads through direct and indirect contact with infected people, eating contaminated food, or touching your mouth or eyes after contact with infected surfaces. It is highly concentrated in fecal matter and vomit. Although not previously believed to be airborne, recent studies are disputing that claim.

Treatment and prevention methods:
There is no direct cure for gastroenteritis. While the illness can be very unpleasant and multiple strains mean you can contract the illness repeatedly, it usually clears up by itself within a week. You can manage its symptoms with cold and flu medications until resolution within a few days. Spreading of illness can be avoided altogether by exercising care and good hygiene.

See your doctor if you:

  • Are vomiting or excreting blood
  • Dehydrated and can’t keep liquids down
  • Fever above 40°C (104°F)

Or if your child:

  • Has a fever of 38.9°C (102°F)
  • Is in pain or severe discomfort
  • Is vomiting or excreting blood
  • Seems dehydrated

For general information and outbreak updates, visit the PHAC website. For symptom relief and preventative measures, see your Yurek pharmacist