Diarrhea 101: Time To Talk About Something We Don’t Usually Talk About. NPR, November 18, 2016.
Diarrhea isn’t something we usually discuss in public. But as the second leading cause of death for children younger than 5, it’s a topic global health advocates want more people to talk openly about.
Worldwide, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of diarrhea each year. The disease caused an estimated 1.5 million deaths in 2012, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. But it’s both preventable and treatable — if more people understood the underlying causes.
What is diarrhea? Three or more loose or watery bowel movements within a day. Some episodes may be triggered by food sensitivities or an intestinal disease. But the most common source is an intestinal infection. In developing countries, the main culprits are any one of four pathogens: E. coli, shigella, cryptosporidium and rotavirus. They all spread through feces-contaminated food and water, and they cause the intestines to secrete excessive fluid. When the body fails to absorb that fluid, it passes right through the guts and gets flushed out along with vital nutrients. Accompanying symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and severe dehydration.
How is it deadly? Mild diarrhea is no more than an inconvenience for many, but moderate to severe symptoms can lead to death from dehydration if lost fluids and nutrients aren’t replaced.
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