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Contagious Diarrhea

  I am a female 27... my room mate has had some type of virus for a little over a week. Her symptoms dehydration, stomach cramps (sharp pains on her right side), severe lower back pain, and brownish-yellow mucuos-like diarrhea. For the past two days, I have been experiencing the same symptoms minus the sharp pains in my stomach my tends to be a mild gurgle accompanied with nausea. This "virus" that my room mate had is obviously contagious. What types of infections could this be? Is it serious and should I/We seek medical attention? I appreciate any help or information you could provide. Thank you.
Dear Nicole,
Infectious diarrhea can be caused by bacteria, an ingested toxin, a virus or a parasite. The symptoms you describe ( watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping without fever, chills or bloody stools) are classified as noninvasive diarrhea. The agents that cause noninvasive diarrhea include the bacteria: Vibrio cholerae, Salmonella (nontyphoid), Shigella (most cases), enterotoxigenic and enteropathogenic E. coli, Aeromonas, Bacillus cereus, food toxins (Staphylococcus), viruses (Rotavirus, Norwalk agent and others) and parasites (Giardia, Cryptosporidium).
Most cases of infectious diarrhea are self-limited and resolve with conservative therapy. The most important principle in the management of diarrhea is maintaining adequate hydration. Oral rehydration solutions (such as Pedialyte) are available to replenish the fluid and electrolytes lost with the diarrhea. If the diarrhea persists you should see your primary care physician and  have some stool samples sent to the lab to determine if a specific pathogen can be identified. I hope you feel better soon.
This response is being provided for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Always check with your personal physician when you have a question pertaining to your health.
If you would like to be seen at our institution please call 1-800-653-6568, our Referring Physicians' Office and make an appointment to see Dr. Muszkat, one of our experts in Gastroenterology.
*Keywords: infectious diarrhea, causes, treatment, evaluation

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