Saturday, December 18, 2010

Disappointment by Gastroenteritis!!

      A personal story and some info about gastroenteritis -- the stomach flu.

     This weekend we were planning a trip to our son's home in Indiana to attend our grandson's 1st birthday celebration. We also were planning on celebrating Christmas the next day. With birthday presents and Christmas presents all lined up at the back door ready to be loaded in the car, with some bottles of wine from my wine cellar to also celebrate my son's earning his master's degree (on top of his MD), and an Edible Arrangements fruit basket to pick up on the way, and some of my son's favorite food in the form of a chicken enchilada to take along, I was excited about seeing both our grandsons. I should have known something was brewing when I didn't feel like eating any dinner Thursday night.  Seldom do I not have an appetite. Then I woke up at about midnight and the rest of the night I spent in the bathroom-- one of the worst cases of gastroentiritis I ever remember suffering. I won't go into the details but it was wretching and wretched. After no sleep the following morning I was very weakened, and afraid I wouldn't keep anything down including just liquids. But the whole thing subsided during the day we were supposed to be traveling. Needless to say we didn't go; you don't take a gastroenteritis bug into a home with two small children. We canceled our orders for the Edible Arrangements and for the chicken enchiladas. Today is the birthday and my daughter-in-law just called after the party ended. She said half of the people who were supposed to come to the party with their children also suffered similar illnesses. So this bug must be going around all over the Midwest. I know my mother and my sister got a similar illness after attending a Church Fellowship in Illinois the Sunday after Thanksgiving. About 20 people who were at that event got sick. As a doctor I wonder what the germ is, and wonder if it could have been the Norwalk virus because of its virulence and its infectiousness.

     Wikipedia tells me that one or another genotype of the RNA virus now called Norovirus (used to be called the Norwalk agent)  is responsible for 95% of epidemic gastroenterities. Two genotypes of this virus are most responsible. This virus is very infectious with as few as 10 virus units enough to cause infection. The incubation time is 24 to 48 hours and the illness usually lasts 24 to 60 hours. But worse is that people tend to shed the virus for weeks after they are well. This means that I could have gotten it as I suspected when I visited Mom, either from surfaces or from a kiss I gave her as I left. I hate to blame my 93 year old mother but that could have been the source. I learned that alcohol does not kill the virus well, but chlorine does. So surfaces should be disinfected with chlorine bleach. Washing the hands with hot water and soap also helps but is not 100% effective at preventing the spread of the illness. In one source study a single food handler who was infected transmitted the disease to 30 people. Does it help me that I now know this information about this germ? No, but it is the doctor in me that demands I look it up.
     The disappointment of our canceled trip will soon fade, and we will schedule another weekend to take the presents to the two grandsons. I am still looking forward to this date. Life deals in surprises and disappointments and fortunately they usually don't last. We just have to keep that fact in mind.

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