Enteric diseases are infections that affect the gastrointestinal system. There are vide variety of enteric diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites. These diseases are commonly contracted by drinking and eating liquid and food contaminated with human or animal feces. Some of the most common enteric diseases are typhoid fever, salmonella and shigella infection, E.coli, amoebiasis, giardiasis, etc.
The most common clinical feature of any enteric disease is stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, decreased appetite, fever. Although intestinal diseases are not life threatening, they are known to produce nutritional deficiencies, malabsorption, and dehydration etc which may affect the health of a person.
Common Symptoms Of Enteric Disease
There are several types of enteric infections caused by different pathogens. The infections can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the strength, toxicity, of the organism and the resistance of the immune system of the body. The disease can be acute and last for days or weeks. Chronic infections can prolong for many months. Some of the highlighting symptoms of any enteric disease are:
- Abdominal cramps: It is one of the most common clinical symptoms of enteric pathology.
- Diarrhea: Loose watery stool occur as a result of increased motility and inflammation of the intestinal lining. Frequent watery stool can lead to dehydration and loss of electrolytes.
- Vomiting: Vomiting usually occurs prior to diarrhea. It may develop soon, few hours after consuming the contaminated food or may occur after one or two days. Frequent vomiting can cause loss of fluids and electrolytes from the body.
- Blood in stools: In some diseases such as bacillary dysentery caused by Shigella bacteria, there may be small amount of blood, mucus and pus in stool.
- Fever: Mild to high rise of body temperature is accompanied with almost all enteric infections.
- Loss of appetite: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever all lead to loss of appetite.
- Dehydration: Due to diarrhea and vomiting there is enough loss of body fluid and salts. Signs of dehydration include dry tongue, wrinkled skin, loss of skin elasticity, cold and clammy hands and feet, tiredness and dizziness. Dehydration leads to increased amount of thirst.
What Causes Enteric Diseases?
Enteric diseases can occur in many forms. They can be sporadic, endemic, and epidemic. Enteric diseases are prevalent throughout the world, but the rate and incidence of diseases is high in areas that have poor sanitary facilities. Developing countries are worst affected with enteric diseases. There is no racial susceptibility or gender difference.
The mode of transmission is water borne or food borne. Ingesting food and fluids contaminated with fecal matter of human or animal can spread diseases such as typhoid fever, shigella infection, E.coli infection etc. Children, aged individuals and those with low immunity are at greater risk of suffering from the enteric diseases, although these diseases can occur at any age and in any individual. Poor hygienic care by food handlers is also a reason for its spread.
Treatment Options For Enteric Diseases
Treatment of enteric diseases mainly depends on the causative organism. If the disease is bacterial infection such as typhoid, cholera, bacillary dysentery than antibiotics is the main treatment mode. If the disorder is caused due to viral infection, anti viral drugs are used sometime, but in many cases the condition ameliorates on its own within few days.
The aim is to prevent dehydration caused by severe loss of fluid through diarrhea and vomiting. Oral re-hydration therapy is the mainstay treatment to compensate loss of water and electrolyte from the body. In few severely dehydrated cases hospitalization may be necessary for intravenous fluid administration.