Food Poisoning (cont.)

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What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?

Food poisoning most commonly causes:

  • abdominal cramps,
  • vomiting, and
  • diarrhea.

This can cause significant amounts of fluid loss and diarrhea along with nausea and vomiting may make it difficult to replace lost fluid, leading to dehydration. In developing countries where infectious epidemics cause diarrheal illnesses, thousands of people die because of dehydration.

As noted in the section above, other organ systems may be infected and affected by food poisoning. Symptoms will depend upon what organ system is involved (for example, encephalopathy due to brain infection).

Are food poisoning and stomach flu the same thing?

Food poisoning and the stomach flu may or may not be the same thing, depending if the causative agent is transmitted by contaminated food, or if the agent is transmitted by non-food mechanisms such as body secretions. Most health-care professionals equate stomach flu to viral gastroenteritis.

Stomach flu is a non-specific term that describes an illness that usually resolves within 24 hours and is caused commonly by the adenovirus, Norwalk virus or rotavirus, (rotavirus is most commonly found in children).

If numerous cases of "stomach flu" occur in a situation where many people have been eating, it certainly may be considered food poisoning. Norwalk virus is responsible for many cases of food borne illness outbreaks on cruise ships.

How long does food poisoning last?

Most cases of food poisoning last about 1 to 2 days and symptoms resolve on their own. If symptoms persist longer than that, the affected person should contact their health-care professional.

Cyclospora infections may be difficult to detect and diarrhea may last for weeks. health-care professionals may consider this parasite as the potential cause of food poisoning in patients with prolonged symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2015

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