Treating the Stomach Bug8/2/2012
Gastroenteritis refers to inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and is caused by a virus, bacterium, or toxin. Symptoms include cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The illness usually only lasts a few days, but leaves its victims feeling miserable and weak. Gastroenteritis can also lead to severe dehydration and can be serious in children, the elderly and people with other health conditions.
The number of Americans that died from gastroenteritis more than doubled between 1999 and 2007, increasing from 7,000 a year at the beginning of the study to more than 17,000 a year by 2007. People aged 65 and older were the hardest hit, accounting for 83 percent of deaths.
There are two common culprits behind gastroenteritis:
Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, is a bacterium that was the most common cause of gastroenteritis during the study. Deaths from C. diff took a steep jump from 2,700 in 1999 to 14,500 in 2007, most likely due to the emergence and spread of highly resistant strains of the bacterium.
Norovirus was the second-leading cause of the stomach bug, claiming an average of 800 lives per year.
Scientists are currently working on developing treatments for these infections to decrease the alarming number of deaths. But in the meantime, you can do something as simple as washing your hands to help ward off infection