Health Care

Stomach Bugs: Norovirus vs. Shigella

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If there’s a “stomach bug” or “stomach flu” going around your workplace, your child’s school or your community, chances are it’s caused by one of two highly contagious culprits.

Shigella bacteria causes an infection called shigellosis. Norovirus is a viral infection (not related to the influenza virus/flu). Both are so transmissible they can cause outbreaks among groups of people.

Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between shigellosis and norovirus, how you can keep your family healthy, and tips for treating those uncomfortable symptoms at home.

Symptoms of Norovirus and Shigella Infections

These two infections share many of the same unfortunate symptoms, like gastrointestinal issues, nausea and/or vomiting and loss of appetite.

According to the CDC, most people with a shigella infection experience:

  • Diarrhea that can be bloody or prolonged (lasting more than three days)
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling the need to pass stool even when the bowels are empty

Symptoms usually start a day or two after infection and last a week. In some cases, bowel habits (frequency and consistency of stool) do not return to normal for several months.

Symptoms of norovirus infection include:

  • Body aches (less common)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever (less common)
  • Headache (less common)
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

Infection time is shorter; people usually develop symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus, and most get better within one to three days.

Key Differences Between Norovirus and Shigella Infections

Shigellosis is a bacterial infection, while norovirus is viral. Though bacterial infections may be treated with antibiotics, shigella cases are often considered mild enough to not need prescription medication.

Other differences between these two infections include:

  • Shigella more commonly causes fever and diarrhea
  • Norovirus may last 1 to 3 days
  • Shigellosis may last 5 to 7 days

In children, norovirus typically presents with vomiting, and shigella commonly causes watery diarrhea.

Preventing Infection

Both norovirus and shigella are highly transmissible via surfaces, foods and hands (especially through stool particles). Thorough hand-washing with soap and water is one of the best things you can do to prevent the spread. Those who are sick shouldn’t prepare or share food, attend work or school, or go swimming until the infection has cleared.

Diagnosis By Your Doctor

A stool test is sometimes used to formally diagnose a case of shigellosis or norovirus. But doctors also your unique symptoms and information about outbreaks in your area to determine which bug you’re fighting.

Treating Shigellosis and Norovirus at Home

Any gastrointestinal illness is tough on the whole family. If someone in your home is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, be sure everyone washes their hands often with soap and water. Wipe down surfaces frequently, wash bedding in hot water and focus on keeping your ill loved one comfortable and hydrated.

Treatments for both shigellosis and norovirus are generally rest, bland foods and hydration. Electrolyte drinks may be useful for both kids and adults if they’re having trouble keeping solids down. If you begin to see signs of dehydration, such as lethargy and infrequent urination, call your doctor or pediatrician.

We’re here for your family through all the ups and downs. If you still need a primary care provider for yourself or your child, we’re honored to be your partner in whole health.

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