Gastroenteritis

Doctor’s Profile

Dr. Aasim Yusuf is a graduate of King Edward Medical College Lahore. He did his post graduation from Birmingham U.K. MRCP in 1991 and FRCP from Edinburgh. He is presently working in Shaukat Khanum as medical director and consultant gastroenterologist. Gastroenteritis kills thousands of people every year all over the world, in Pakistan hundreds die of this disease yearly because of lack of adequate safe water and sewage treatment capacity. Following is an account of the interview conducted with Dr. Asim.

What is Viral Gastroenteritis?

Q: What is Viral Gastroenteritis?

Ans: Viral Gastroenteritis is an infectious illness caused by a number of viruses not just by one virus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting. It can be quite severe, particularly in children and elderly people, and can lead to quite marked dehydration some times, and may require hospitalization.

What causes Viral Gastroenteritis?

Q: What causes Viral Gastroenteritis?

Ans: There are various viruses that can cause it but viral gastroenteritis is probably the commonest cause of acute diarrhea, which in Pakistan is often treated inappropriately by antibiotics which are usually unnecessary. Most of them are self limiting and get better in a few days on their own.

What are the symptoms of Viral Gastroenteritis?

Q: What are the symptoms of Viral Gastroenteritis?

Ans: The symptoms are typical. You can have local symptoms or generalized e.g headache, fever flu vomiting, abdominal cramps and severe diarrhea.

Is Viral Gastroenteritis a serious illness?

Q: Is Viral Gastroenteritis a serious illness?

Ans: In majority cases it is self limiting. It can be serious in the very young or the elderly who have heart disease or kidney disease. But in fit and healthy people it can does not cause much problem.

Is the illness contagious? How are these viruses spread?

Q: Is the illness contagious? How are these viruses spread?

Ans: Yes it is contagious in the sense that it is spread by fecal oral route, water that you drink is contaminated by faeces of someone who is infected, because the water supply and sewerage are mixing somewhere and that contaminates the water supply. This usually occurs in poverty stricken areas which are densely populated with a bad sewerage lines and water supply system. This disease is spread mostly by contaminated water or food preparations done by some one who is infected by this disease.

When and where does Viral Gastroenteritis occur?

Q: When and where does Viral Gastroenteritis occur?

Ans: It occurs all over the world but is more common in Pakistan during the summer months

Who gets Viral Gastroenteritis?

Q: Who gets Viral Gastroenteritis?

Ans: Any one can get it, but if your immunity is low, like if you are a diabetic or ill or pregnant, that may increase your chance of getting it.

How is Viral Gastroenteritis treated?

Q: How is Viral Gastroenteritis treated?

Ans: There is no specific treatment in most cases you just treat symptoms or the dehydration. Most important is to maintain your fluid intake and for that you should take ORS. If you are vomiting and have severe diarrhea then you need to take it intravenously. The main risk in severe diarrhea is dehydration and you need to maintain the fluids and salts in the blood at a normal level. But the majority of patients can take ORS orally. It is a cheap and simple way of treatment.