Enteric diseases are infections occurring in the gastrointestinal system. There are several different types of enteric disease mostly caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Enteric diseases are usefully acute in onset. The disease is transmitted by eating and drinking contaminated food and water. The most common cause of transmission of enteric disease is feco oral route.
Some of the common enteric illnesses are typhoid fever, E.coli infection, amoebiasis, giardiasis, H.pylori infection, shigella and salmonella infection. Almost all enteric illness has few common symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, malabsorption, nutritional deficiency, dehydration etc.Food borne and waterborne disease are not life threatening, but can cause considerable repercussions on patient’s health.
Various Types Of Enteric Diseases
As mentioned above there are several types of enteric illnesses:
- Typhoid fever: It is a disease caused by salmonella typhi and paratyphi A and B bacteria. The disease is also referred as enteric fever. It occurs through transmission of contaminated food and water. Food and water somehow get contaminated with fecal material which contains the germs. Poor sanitation, crowded living, eating improperly cooked food all are responsible for the spread of this disease.
- Amoebiasis: It is a gastrointestinal infection caused by amoeba parasite. The name of this parasite is Entamoeba histolytica. The main symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal pain. Transimission occurs through feco oral route.
- Shigella infection: They are gram negative bacteria responsible for bacillary dysentery. Diarrhea with blood and mucus in stool are characteristic feature of shigelosis. The principal route of transmission is from person to person by feco oral contamination. Unwashed hands after defecation, touching and scratching anal area are the principal routes of infection. It can also be contracted by touching contaminated lavatory seats, touching flushing handles, taps and doorknobs, because the bacteria can survive on fingers for many hours.
- Cholera: Cholera is a serious disease caused by bacteria called vibrio cholera. Severe rice watery diarrhea is classical feature of cholera. The volume of fluid loss in diarrhea is severe and as a result patient becomes dehydrated easily.
- Giardiasis: Giardiasis is an infection of small intestine caused by protozoa Giardia lamblia. The disease can cause diarrhea and various other gastrointestinal symptoms. Giardiasis occurs all over the world. Abdominal pain, bloating, flatus, nausea, vomiting and burning in the upper side of abdomen (epigastrium) are some of its symptoms.
Common Symptoms Of Enteric Diseases
All the above enteric infections have most of the symptoms in common but the severity may vary. These diseases can be acute in onset or some of them may become chronic as in case of amoebiasis.
- Abdominal cramps: This may occur constantly or in pauses.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea is one of the clinical features that are present in almost all enteric diseases. It occurs due to increased movement and inflammation in the internal lining of the intestine. Frequent diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
- Vomiting: Vomiting occurs before diarrhea in majority of cases. Vomiting begins within few hours after eating or drinking contaminated food.
- Mucus and blood in stool: In bacillary dysentery the stool does not contain more water but it has mucus and blood.
- Fever: Body temperature may be mildly increased or raised very high.
- Loss of appetite: This is common in gastrointestinal infection because of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Dehydration: Loss of water and electrolyte from the body leads to dehydration. Loss occurs from vomiting and diarrhea. Signs of dehydration are cold and clammy limbs, wrinkled skin, dry tongue and mouth, loss of skin elasticity, severe prostration and dizziness.
Treatment Options For Enteric Diseases
The treatment of enteric disease will depend on particular disease. If the infective organism is bacteria as in case of cholera, typhoid, bacillary dysentery, the main line treatment consists of antibiotics. If the underlying causative organism is virus, than in majority of cases supportive therapy is used such as replenishing with oral electrolyte solution to prevent dehydration.
In many cases the viral infection ameliorates on its own within few days. If the patient is severely dehydrated he may need to be hospitalized for intravenous administration of fluids.