Viral gastroenteritis

Alternative Names

Rotavirus infection; Norwalk virus; Gastroenteritis – viral; Stomach flu

Definition of Viral gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines from a virus. The infection can lead to and vomiting. It is sometimes called the “stomach flu.”

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Viral gastroenteritis is a leading cause of severe diarrhea in both adults and children. Many types of viruses can cause gastroenteritis. The most common ones are:

Signs and tests

Your health care provider will look for signs that the body does not have enough water (dehydration). These include:


The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration by making sure the body has as much water and fluids as it should. Fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) lost through diarrhea or vomiting must be replaced by drinking extra fluids. Even if you are able to eat, you should still drink extra fluids between meals.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most infections will go away on their own. Children may become severely ill from dehydration caused by diarrhea.


Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Divison of Physician Assistant STudies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 4/12/2010

Digestive system
Digestive system organs

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.