Viral gastroenteritis (gastro) is a common infection of the stomach and intestines that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
Gastro can be caused by many different viruses. Examples of viruses that cause gastro are rotavirus and norovirus.
There are many other causes of gastro including bacteria, toxins, parasites, and some other diseases.
The symptoms of gastro can include:
Depending on the cause, symptoms usually take between one and three days to start. Symptoms usually last one to two days, or sometimes longer.
Viral gastroenteritis can be highly infectious so it can spread very easily.
It spreads when a person comes in contact with the vomit or faeces (poo) of an infected person, including:
Infection may also be spread in the air when people vomit.
In most cases it is spread from a person who has symptoms.
Some people can pass on the infection without having symptoms. It is important to continue good hygiene for 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped to avoid passing the virus to other people.
Viral gastroenteritis can affect people of all ages, although young children and the elderly and people with reduced immune systems are most at risk of severe disease.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, and dry them with a clean towel:
A doctor will usually diagnose a person with gastro based on the person's symptoms. If there are a high number of cases in one place a doctor will test samples of faeces.
There is no specific treatment for viral gastroenteritis. Most people will recover with rest and drinking a lot of fluid.
If you have gastro:
If you are caring for someone with viral gastroenteritis:
Outbreaks of gastroenteritis increase in winter and are common within families and group settings including nursing homes, hospitals, childcare centres, and schools. Doctors and hospitals are required to notify their local public health unit when there are two or more cases of gastro that are linked.
Public health units are able to:
For further information call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.