Gastroenteritis (GE) is inflammation of the stomach and small intestines presenting with nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort or pain and diarrhoea.
Food poisoning is the illness as a result of consumption of contaminated food with bacteria, viruses, parasites as well as chemical and natural toxins. Food poisoning also presents just like Gastroenteritis.
In Kenya Gastroenteritis is very common in children. Many children presents in our hospitals with diarrhoea. Food poisoning is also common in Kenya especially following consumption or undercooked meat in joints or food not handle hygienically. Just recently opposition leader Raila Odinga was treated with food poisoning.
Gastroenteritis may be of nonspecific, uncertain, or unknown etiology or of bacterial, viral, parasitic, or toxic etiology. Campylobacter infection is the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness. Person-to-person transmission is especially common with gastroenteritis caused by Shigella, Escherichia coli, Giardia, Norwalk virus, and rotavirus.
The main danger of both gastroenteritis and food poisoning which can lead to mortality is dehydration. The main aim of management is to ensure that the fluid and electrolytes lost due to diarrhoea and vomiting is replaced.
Diagnosis is based on the history of the patient, history of consumption of contaminated food or water and the symptoms they are presenting with. Stool sample is taken for analysis such as ova, cyst and culture. Cholera usually presents as an outbreak and the diarrhoea is describes as ‘Rice water.’
The principle of management of Gastroenteritis and food poisoning is replacement of the fluids and electrolytes lost. Depending on the degree of dehydration either replaced orally or by intravenous fluids such as ringer’s lactate and hartmann’s solution. Zinc Sulphate is also given as it has been shown to reduce the duration of illness. Antibiotics are generally not necessary but can be given depending on the laboratory findings. Antibiotics used are ciprofloxacin, doxycline, metronidazole. Aminosidine and secnidazole can also be used.
In breastfeeding children, continue breastfeeding. In adults continue feeding, if vomiting small but frequent feeding.
Prevention includes proper handling of foods including hand washing, preparing foods well and good sanitation.
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