Gastrointestinal Viral Diseases


Viral gastroenteritis is an inflammation of your stomach and intestines caused by one of any number of viruses. Also known as the stomach flu, viral gastroenteritis affects people throughout the world. In most cases, it lasts only a few days and doesn’t require treatment. The biggest danger is dehydration from loss of fluid due to diarrhea and vomiting. Many different viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including rotaviruses, noroviruses, adenoviruses, sapoviruses, and astroviruses. Although viral gastroenteritis is caused by a number of viruses, it is estimated that noroviruses are responsible for about 1/3 of the cases not involving the 6-to-24-month age group.

Gastrointestinal Virus

Norovirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the United States and worldwide. Norovirus results in about 685 million cases of disease and 200,000 deaths globally a year. Most outbreaks in the United States occur between November and April. The virus is transmitted by hands contaminated through the fecal-oral route, directly from person to person. The illness is self-limiting, and most patients have recovered in 72 hours without sequelae.

Rotavirus gastroenteritis is usually more severe than other types of gastroenteritis. It’s very contagious and is the most common cause of diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide. Immunity develops with each infection, so subsequent infections are less severe; adults are rarely affected. The vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing severe rotavirus disease.

There are 88 human adenoviruses (HAdVs) in seven species (A-G). HAdV-G type 52 and HAdV-F types 40, 41, are connected with gastroenteritis, and thus are called enteric adenoviruses. Adenoviruses are the 4th most common cause of childhood viral gastroenteritis. Infections occur year-round, with a slight increase in summer. The adenovirus affects people of all ages. Most children will feel better within a few days of experiencing adenovirus symptoms.

Astrovirus can infect people of all ages but usually infects infants and young children. The virus usually affects people in late winter and early spring. Astrovirus infection is not usually a severe situation and only in some rare cases leads to dehydration.

Pathogenic spectrum of acute gastroenteritis. Fig.1 Pathogenic spectrum of acute gastroenteritis. (Luo, 2019)


Most gastrointestinal viruses are transmitted via the fecal-oral route. They can infect your stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Symptoms include low-grade fever, abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, nausea and vomiting in nearly all of these etiologies. These symptoms can last anywhere from 1 to 10 days. The condition is self-limited in most cases. The prognosis in most cases is very good.

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  1. Luo, L.; et al. Epidemiological and clinical differences between sexes and pathogens in a three-year surveillance of acute infectious gastroenteritis in Shanghai. Sci Rep, 2019, 9(1): 9993.

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