The stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis, is a viral infection that attacks the stomach and small intestine. Usually brief in nature, the stomach flu typically lasts 1 to 3 days. The stomach flu is NOT the same flu for which we receive vaccines each winter. Those flu vaccines are for influenza, which is not the same as the stomach flu which is a mild virus that affects your intestines.
There are several viruses which can cause the stomach flu, including adenoviruses, rotaviruses, and the Norwalk virus.
Gastroenteritis or the stomach flu results when we swallow one of these viruses. Transmission of the virus is really quite simple since the body fluids of those infected contain the virus, sometimes even before their symptoms begin.
Then the virus is spread through contact with an infected person, like through shaking hands or kissing example, or by sharing food, or drinks, or eating utensils. Pretty easy to transmit the virus from one person to another if you think about the many opportunities we have each day for transmission.
Once you have been in direct contact with the virus, it travels to the stomach and intestine and then settles in to cause an inflammation of the lining of these organs. So when that happens, the stomach and intestine lose their ability to work properly. They cannot keep up with their usual activities. Because of this issue, the virus can cause food to move more quickly through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract causing diarrhea. Signs and symptoms of the stomach flu may develop over a period of hours, or it may suddenly start with stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea. You may also see signs and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, muscle aches, low grade fever and chills.