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    Suggest ways to differentiate between bacterial and viral diarrhea

Posted on Sat, 1 Jul 2017 in General Health
Question: Hello,doctor.How can I differentiate bacterial and viral diarrhea?
Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh 52 minutes later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:
Hello and welcome,

I will assume you are referring to acute diarrhea (lasting 3 or fewer weeks) as opposed to chronic diarrhea.

I'll write the following information also assuming that you have not been out of the US to areas where there are endemic gastrointestinal diseases.

In the US, most microbial gastroenteritis that causes diarrhea fall into the following categories:
1. Viral: Usually is an infection going around in the community, can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Usually only lasts a few days and does not need treatment unless a person is becoming dehydrated from fluid loss or having electrolyte imbalance from potassium losses. There is a wide range of onset for viral diarrhea and it depends on the virus. For example XXXXXXX virus will come on much faster than Hepatitis A.
2. Bacterial infection: This is a direct infection of foreign bacteria into the gut.
3. Food poisoning: This occurs from toxins emitted by bacteria and causes the classic rapid onset and rather violent symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, sometimes light headedness and dizziness). It comes on within hours after eating contaminated food, whereas bacterial infection can take days.

Since there are so many different viruses and bacteria that can cause diarrhea, and each has different timing for onset of symptoms, persistence, and severity, I can't say specifically, other than the information I provided above. But I found 2 very good tables from the journal XXXXXXX Family Physician that provides information of the different types.

Here is a link to that article. Specifically take a look at TABLE 2 and 3.

This link will not be blue/clickable, so please copy and paste it into your address bar.

I hope this information helps. Please let me know if I can provide further information.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Answered by
Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1991

Answered : 3136 Questions


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