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Community Advocacy Organization

Stomach Flu vs. Respiratory Flu: How to Tell the Difference


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Whether you call it the stomach flu, or more accurately, gastroenteritis, this contagious infection is no fun. Gastroenteritis is commonly referred to as a “flu,” so it’s easy to confuse it with influenza, but the two illnesses are not the same.

There are two main types of influenza (flu) viruses: types A and B. These viruses are a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu viruses spread mainly from droplets made when people cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu symptoms may include fever, chills, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny nose/congestion, body aches, and occasionally, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms typically resolve between three and seven days.

“The most important thing to do when you are not feeling well is to stay home so that you are not spreading illnesses to others,” said Emily Smith, DO, primary care physician at McLaren Greater Lansing Primary Care in Okemos. “Flu vaccines are recommended yearly and have been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and complications.” Norovirus, which causes gastroenteritis and is often called the stomach flu, is not caused by the influenza virus and is not a flu at all. It can spread very easily and quickly from infected people or through contaminated foods and surfaces.


Courtesy Photo-Emily Smith


“Norovirus causes common gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort that typically last one to two days,” said Dr. Smith. “Some people also complain of fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches that are similar to influenza.” Both influenza and norovirus can spread fast and lead to extreme illnesses for some. Dr. Smith recommends proper hand hygiene, along with covering your coughs and sneezes, to help protect yourself and those around you.

“Use running water and soap for 20 seconds (for example, as long as singing the happy birthday song), and then rinse and use a clean paper towel or cloth towel to dry. Use hand sanitizer if handwashing is unavailable, with at least 60% alcohol, and rub it in your hands until completely dry,” said Dr. Smith. For questions or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Smith, click here. For a list of primary care providers accepting new patients, click here.

About McLaren Greater Lansing McLaren Greater Lansing and McLaren Orthopedic Hospital operate the region’s most distinguished cardiovascular and orthopedic surgery programs that—together with McLaren Greater Lansing’s oncology, women’s care and wide-ranging diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical services—consistently lead in clinical quality and efficiency. The hospitals are part of McLaren Health Care, mid-Michigan’s largest health care system. Visit mclaren.org/lansing. McLaren Greater Lansing’s new hospital opening March 6, 2022, is a tertiary teaching facility with 239 acute care beds, located on the southern edge of the Michigan State University campus. Among its services are a Level III Trauma Center/Emergency Department, Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute, comprehensive cardiac programs, medical/surgical units, and state-of-the-art women and children’s health services including a modern birthing center. Also located at the healthcare campus is the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing and Outpatient Care Center.

Residency programs are affiliated with Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, and the Statewide Campus System. Residencies include family medicine, internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, anesthesiology, and obstetrics/gynecology. Fellowships are offered in cardiology, hematology/oncology, gastroenterology, and pulmonary critical care. McLaren Greater Lansing also participates in a city wide residency programs in emergency medicine, neurology, urology, psychiatry, and physical and rehabilitation medicine. About McLaren Health Care McLaren Health Care, headquartered in Grand Blanc, Michigan, is a fully integrated health network committed to quality, evidence-based patient care and cost efficiency. The McLaren system includes 15 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, imaging centers, a 490-member employed primary and specialty care physician network, commercial and Medicaid HMOs covering more than 620,000 lives in Michigan and Indiana, home health and hospice providers, retail medical equipment showrooms, pharmacy services, and a wholly owned medical malpractice insurance company. McLaren operates Michigan’s largest network of cancer centers and providers, anchored by the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, one of only 49 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the U.S. McLaren has 26,000 employees and more than 85,500 network providers. Its operations are housed in more than 350 facilities serving Michigan and Indiana.

McLaren confidentiality statement: "The information contained in this communication, including attachments, is confidential, may be privileged, and is intended only for the use of the named recipient(s). Unauthorized use, disclosure, forwarding or copying is strictly prohibited and may be unlawful. If you have received this communication in error, please notify me IMMEDIATELY at the phone number or pager listed above."

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