Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Deaths From Stomach Bugs Have Risen Since 1999

CDC: C. Difficile Leading Cause of U.S. Deaths From Gastroenteritis; Norovirus Is Second
By Cari Nierenberg
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 16, 2012 -- The number of Americans who died from gastroenteritis, most commonly caused by stomach bugs, more than doubled between 1999 and 2007, a new study from the CDC shows.

Researchers found that people aged 65 and older were the hardest hit: They accounted for 83% of all deaths from gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis refers to an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Symptoms include cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It's a common illness that usually lasts just a few days, but it can leave people feeling weak and miserable.

Infection with a stomach "bug" may lead to severe dehydration, and can sometimes be serious in children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions.

For the study, researchers looked at data from the National Center for Health Statistics to determine the number of deaths linked with gastroenteritis over an eight-year period in the U.S. During this time, the number of deaths more than doubled, jumping from nearly 7,000 a year at the beginning of the study to more than 17,000 a year by 2007.

These findings were recently presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases 2012 in Atlanta.

2 Common Culprits

Clostridium difficile , a type of bacterium also known as C. diff, was the most common cause of gastroenteritis deaths over the eight-year period. Those deaths most frequently occurred between March and May.

Deaths from C. diff increased fivefold, from roughly 2,700 a year to 14,500 annually. Researchers suspect this large jump is due to the emergence and spread of highly resistant strains of the bacterium.

Norovirus, sometimes described as the "cruise ship virus," claimed an average of nearly 800 lives a year. Those deaths peaked in the winter between December and February.

Whether on the high seas or on land, this highly contagious virus can spread rapidly from person to person in crowded, confined places. Norovirus outbreaks can also occur in close-contact settings, such as day care centers, college dorms, long-term care facilities, and hospitals. It's transmitted by having contact with an infected person or by drinking or eating contaminated foods and liquids.

Today on WebMD

man holding his stomach
Get the facts on common problems.
blueberries in a palm
Best and worst foods.
woman shopping
Learn what foods to avoid.
fresh and dried plums
Will it help constipation?
diverticuliltis illustration
couple eating at cafe
sick child
Woman blowing bubble gum

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with crohns in pain
Woman with stomach pain
diet for diverticulitis
what causes diarrhea