Diarrhea is the emission of at least three soft or liquid stools per day, or at an abnormal frequency for a given individual. It is generally the symptom of a gastrointestinal infection, mostly viral.
The infection is transmitted by the consumption of contaminated water or food or, more often than not, from one person to another (human contamination).
Severe diarrhea leads to loss of fluids and sodium (electrolytes) and can be fatal, especially in young children and undernourished or immunodeficient persons.
Abdominal pain and vomiting often come with diarrhea. Moderate fever can also occur.
Diarrhea is said to be acute when it lasts for less than two weeks. In most cases, acute diarrhea comes on suddenly. It generally lasts less than a week, and does not relapse in the short term.
Each year in France, 5% of inhabitants see a general practitioner for acute diarrhea. The Norovirus (most often incriminated) or the Rotavirus in very young children, are likely to lead to packed doctors’ waiting rooms and A&E units, reaching epidemic level in winter.
Diarrhea is hemorrhagic up to one in a hundred cases. Acute diarrhea generally goes away on its own or with symptomatic treatment in less than 5 days. Sick leave is prescribed in one out of three times.