We love eating out, especially street/fast foods that are made 'fresh' under the open air. Of course, that lands the unlucky few at the local polyclinic at 1 a.m. on a weeknight. Many of us label our gastrointestinal woes as 'dysentery' when it may actually be gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis

Infectious diarrhoea or Gastroenteritisirritates the stomach and small intestines causing them to become inflamed. Campylobacter jejuni is the main cause of bacterial gastroenteritis, with Salmonella, and Campylobacter species mostly affecting small children. Diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms. Sometimes, stomach pain, cramping, fever, nausea, and a headache are also signs of gastroenteritis. Viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungus often cause this disease. Viral gastroenteritis is caused by rotavirus, norovirus, adenovirus, and astrovirus, with rotovirus affecting children the most. 70% of infectious diarrhoea cases are found among children.

Preventing Gastroenteritis

Washing hands with soap; Drinking clean water; Correct sanitation practices, especially proper disposal of human waste; Breastfeeding babies instead of using formula; Sterilizing feeding bottles before & after use; Administering rotavirus vaccine in children; Avoiding undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs; raw sprouts, unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses; fruit and vegetable juices.

Treatment

Patients must be rehydrated with Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS). Healthcare professionals may opt to rehydrate when patients are not responding to stimuli. Clean drinking water may be also be used. Medicines to suppress vomiting and nausea are used to treat children. Antibiotics are used in cases where bacterial causes are confirmed or suspected. Young children who have both bloody diarrhoea and fever are also administered antibiotics.

Dysentery

This is a type of gastroenteritis caused by bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms, or protozoa. Dysentery causes inflamed intestines, especially the colon (large intestines) with similar symptoms to gastroenteritis.

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Amoebiasis, an infection by the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica, found mainly in tropical areas, is the cause of amoebic dysentery. Amoebic dysentery requires thorough treatment as inadequately treated amoebiasiscan stay inactive for years, afterwards leading to severe, potentially fatal complications.

Symptons of Amoebic Dysentery

Abdominal Pain; Fever and Chills; Nausea and Vomiting; Watery diarrhoea, which can contain blood, mucus or pus; Passing stools becomes painful; Fatigue; Erratic constipation. Shigellosis, an infection by bacteria of the genus Shigella causes bacillary dysentery or Marlow Syndrome. Dysentery may also be caused by Enteroinvasive Escherichia coli. The symptoms aren't so severe for bacillary dysentery with many experiencing mild stomach pain accompanied diarrhoea, with no blood or mucus in the faeces. Though a handful experience blood and mucus in the faeces, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Diagnosis

A physical examination is conducted by a doctor and stool samples are taken to determine treatment. Due to dehydration, mouth, skin, and lips may become dry. The lower abdomen may become tender to the touch. Many physicians prefer to confirm their diagnosis with cultures of the patient's stool samples, along with blood tests to measure the essential minerals and salts levels.

Treatment

Metronidazole, paromomycin, or iodoquinol are the most common medications prescribed for dysentery. Though doctors prefer not to prescribe antimicrobial therapy until the specific infection has been established. In cases where labs aren't available or for critical cases, an amoebicidal medicines to kill the parasite, and an antibiotic to treat any associated bacterial infection is recommended. Oral Rehydration Therapy is recommended. Hospitalisation is required for intravenous fluid replacement when vomiting or profuse diarrhea is present. A bland diet such as rice, bananas, or crackers, while avoiding milk products is advisable.

Preventing Dysentery

Wash Hands before preparing and/or eating food. Wash Hands after

    Using toilets Changing diapers for children Looking after a dysentery patient Handling pet animals Gardening or touching soil

Boil water until the temperature is 100 °C for 10-15 minutes. Sewage must be treated and disposed in the correct manner. Avoid food cooked in unhygienic conditions.