Stomach Bug or Food Poisoning: Learn the Differences


Some of those foodborne illnesses are known as the “stomach bug,” also known as Norovirus. This virus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis, or what we commonly think of as stomach flu symptoms. It causes 23 million cases of gastroenteritis per year, or over half of all gastroenteritis cases in the U.S. and is the second most common virus after the common cold.

Norovirus is usually transmitted from the feces to the mouth, either by drinking contaminated food or water or by passing from person to person. Because noroviruses are easily transmitted, are resistant to common disinfectants, and are hard to contain using normal sanitary measures, they can cause extended outbreaks.

Foodborne illnesses can be viral like, norovirus or hepatitis A, or bacterial like, Shigella, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, E. coli, Botulism or Cronobacter. Whether viral or bacterial, some symptoms can be similar or deadly different.

While bacterial and viral infections often share the same symptoms, they are two very different types of pathogens. A bacterium is a single-celled organism that which causes illness when ingested. Unlike viruses, bacteria can grow on the food they contaminate. Most foodborne illnesses come from bacteria. A virus is non-living and is usually spread from person to person. While some antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial infections, they are ineffective with viral ones.