The stomach flu and food poisoning can be difficult to tell apart. The flu occurs when a virus infects the stomach and intestines. Food poisoning is caused by eating food that contains germs such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The two conditions have similar symptoms and may or may not have the same cause. They both usually resolve without medication or doctors visits, though some over-the-counter options can reduce symptoms.
Stomach flu is a common name for viral gastroenteritis, of which norovirus is the most common cause. Other viruses that can result in the illness include rotavirus, enteric adenovirus, and astrovirus. Norovirus causes 19 to 21 million illnesses, 56 to 71 thousand hospitalizations, 400,000 emergency department visits, and about two million outpatient visits each year. Onset for norovirus illness is usually short, between 24 and 48 hours, and lasts only 12 to 60 hours.
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