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No Time to Let Your Guard Down: Stomach Bug Strikes as COVID Declines

April 06, 2022

Just when we seemed to catch a break with COVID-19 on the decline, Hartford HealthCare doctors are seeing an uptick in flu, common cold and “stomach bugs,” said Hartford HealthCare’s Director of Infectious Disease Ulysses Wu, MD.

A stomach bug going around now in Connecticut is of particular concern, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea in people for several days. While those unlucky enough to catch it may refer to it as a stomach bug or the stomach flu, what they are actually experiencing is probably gastroenteritis — the second most common illness in the U.S., according to the National Library of Medicine.

Gastroenteritis, which causes the stomach and intestines to be inflamed, is caused by a viral infection, which means there is no real treatment. And unlike the rise in common cold and flu, there is no connection between the lessoning of COVID restrictions like masking and the spike in cases, because it is not a respiratory disease, Dr. Wu said. But it is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through contact or surfaces, and if a person becomes dehydrated it can be deadly.

According to WebMD:

What are the Symptoms of Gastroenteritis?

  • The main symptoms are watery diarrhea and vomiting. You might also have stomach pain, cramping, fever, nausea, and a headache.
  • Because of diarrhea and vomiting, you also can become dehydrated. Watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry skin and a dry mouth, feeling lightheaded and being really thirsty. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

How does Gastroenteritis spread?

  • Contact with someone who has the virus.
  • Contaminated food or water.
  • Unwashed hands after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper.

How do you prevent Gastroenteritis?

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Disinfect surfaces.
  • Don’t cook for other people.
  • Make sure to wash your laundry thoroughly.

How do you treat Gastroenteritis?

  • Give an adult as much clear fluid as possible (call your doctor for child-specific treatments).
  • The person should drink fluids slowly in frequent, small amounts. Drinking too much too fast can make nausea worse.
  • Gradually ease food back into the person’s diet.
  • Start with bland, easy-to-digest food such as crackers, bananas, toast, rice and chicken.
  • Avoid dairy, caffeine and alcohol until recovery is complete.

Seek medical help if:

  • Vomiting in an adult or a child age two or older lasts more than one day or a fever or severe diarrhea (large amounts of loose stool every one to two hours) lasts more than two days.
  • A child under age two has vomiting or diarrhea for more than 12 hours or has a fever with vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Vomit or diarrhea turns bloody or tarry.
  • The person has kidneyliver or heart disease and must restrict fluid intake.
  • The person develops sudden, severe abdominal pain.
  • There are symptoms of dehydration.
  • Symptoms don’t go away after a week.