Acute gastroenteritis can lead to death. It can be a serious disease and should not be underestimated, even in industrialized countries. The disease can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and drugs. Viral gastroenteritis is the most common mode of development for the disease, which can occur in humans of any age.
Types of virus
The spread of viral gastroenteritis occurs as a result of fecal-oral transmission of contaminated food or water. In the case of noroviruses, transmission can be airborne. In nursing homes and other healthcare environments, noroviruses are commonly responsible for the spread of gastroenteritis. This type of virus accounts for about twenty three million cases of acute gastroenteritis per annum. In industrialized countries, noroviruses are responsible for up to 80% of all outbreaks.
A common strain of the virus is the rotavirus. This type of virus attaches itself to parts of the small intestine, thus causing structural changes to the mucus in the small bowel. Rotavirus can lead to improper carbohydrate digestion, improper absorption of nutrients and an inhibition of water reabsorption. It is possible for rotavirus to be removed from the cells they occupy without damaging the cells. The rotavirus is the most commonly acquired type of gastroenteritis with regard to pediatric patients.
More than three and a half million infants will develop gastroenteritis every year. In the USA, on average, the disease will account for about 30 deaths per annum. Up to fifty five thousand hospitalizations each year are a result of acute gastroenteritis. The spread of the disease is highest during the period between November and April. However, on cruise ships, the incidences of outbreaks are more common during summer. Interestingly, the widespread occurrence of the virus on cruise ships has lead many to christen the norovirus the “cruise ship virus”. Nine out of twenty one of the gastroenteritis outbreaks reported to have occurred on cruise ships in 2002 were put down to this type of virus.
Viral gastroenteritis is a leading cause of infant mortality. Internationally, the rotavirus will be responsible for as many as 875,000 deaths per year. Many children will fall victim to all the strains of the disease. However, the disease does not affect only children. Severe cases can also be seen in the elderly and immunosuppressed. In fact, in the United States, it is the elderly who are most vulnerable to the effects of the disease.
Additionally, it should be pointed out that caliciviruses are capable of accounting for deaths than the rotavirus, in the US.