Why Deaths from Gastroenteritis Have Doubled in the U.S.!!

A stomach bug might be unbearable & unpleasant for sufferers, but most people usually recover within a week with fluids & much needed rest. A new report from the CDC shows death rates from these stomach illnesses, known as gastroenteritis, have doubled over the past decade.

Lead researcher Dr. Aron Hall of the CDC's Division of Viral Diseases, said in a written statement,"Gastroenteritis is a major cause of death worldwide. By knowing the causes of gastroenteritis-associated deaths and who's at risk, we can develop better treatments and help health care providers prevent people from getting sick."

Why Deaths from Gastroenteritis Have Doubled in the U.S.!!
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The CDC's report found that between 1999- 2007, gastroenteritis-related deaths increased from nearly 7,000 American's annualy to more than 17,000 people per year. Adults 65 and older accounted for 83% of deaths.

Gastroenteritis refers to inflammation of the stomach and intestines that causes vomiting & diarrhea. Gastroenteritis can be caused by different types of bacteria, such as E. coli, campylobacter,and salmonella or viruses, including norovirus & rotavirus, and despite being referred to as "stomach flu," influenza virus isn't one of them.

What drove up gastroenteritis death rates?
Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, a bacterium found throughout the environment but commonly spreads at hospitals, and norovirus, which is highly contagious and known to spread on cruise ships & college campuses, and were the two most common causes of gastroenteritis-related deaths.

Much of the recent increase in deaths is attributed to the emergence of a treatment-resistant strain of Clostridium difficile, the researchers said, C. diff-related deaths were found to have quintupled from 2,700- 14,500 deaths over the 8 year study. Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually, and it is the leading cause of U.S. gastroenteritis outbreaks.

Dr. Aron Hall said,"While C. difficile continues to be the leading contributor to gastroenteritis-associated deaths, this study shows for the first time that norovirus is likely the second leading infectious cause. Our findings highlight the need for effective measures to prevent, diagnose, & manage gastroenteritis, especially for C. difficile & norovirus among the elderly."

According to the Mayo Clinic, gastroenteritis often can't be treated & doctors are hesitant to prescribe antibiotics if bacteria are the cause because it could lead to resistant strains. That's why prevention is so important.

Here are a few ways to prevent getting sick:
1. Wash your hands thoroughly
2. Avoid sharing food, towels, utensils, and plates,
3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick
4. For people traveling overseas, drink only bottled or carbonated water (even when brushing your teeth)
5. Avoid ice cubes, raw foods like fruits & vegetables that could have been grown in infected soil or touched by infected hands
6. Avoid undercooked meat or fish.

cbsnews.com 27 March