What Is a GI Infection?

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A gastrointestinal (GI) infection occurs when bacteria, viruses or parasites infect the gastrointestinal tract, especially the intestines. In the United States, the most common cause of GI infections is food poisoning.

A GI infection is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract.
A GI infection is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract. (Image: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images)

Common Causes

Some of the most common GI infections include those caused by bacteria--such as Salmonella, Shigella and E.coli bacteria--and such parasites as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Food poisoning is the most common cause of this typr of infection.
Food poisoning is the most common cause of this typr of infection. (Image: jeu/iStock/Getty Images)

Viral GI Infections

Viral GI infections, also called gastroenteritis or stomach flu, are most commonly caused by the rotavirus and noroviruses. Viral infections are highly contagious.

The stomach flu is a viral GI infection.
The stomach flu is a viral GI infection. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Symptoms

The most common symptom of a GI infection is watery diarrhea, which may be accompanied by stomach cramps. Other symptoms may include: fever, nausea, appetite loss, bloody stool and dehydration.

Fever is a symptom.
Fever is a symptom. (Image: Chepko Danil/iStock/Getty Images)

Time Frame

The duration of a GI infection depends on its cause and the affected person’s general health. For instance, viral GI infections can last between 2 and 10 days.

A viral GI infection can last from 2 to 10 days.
A viral GI infection can last from 2 to 10 days. (Image: Tom Le Goff/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Treatment

Most viral and bacterial GI infections don’t require treatment; parasite infections may need to be treated with antiparasitic medicine. You should get some rest and drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration due to excessive diarrhea.

A parasitic infection may need to be treated with medication.
A parasitic infection may need to be treated with medication. (Image: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images)

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