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Diarrheal Illness, Infectious (Enteric Disease)

Diarrheal illnesses with or without vomiting are called gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Gastroenteritis is typically caused by a variety of germs that results in vomiting or diarrhea.

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About Infectious Diarrheal Illness

A variety of conditions can cause diarrhea. While some chronic conditions and medications can cause diarrhea, gastroenteritis is typically caused by viruses, bacteria, and sometimes parasites. These germs are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on surfaces that have been touched by ill people. They are also found in animals, and can be present on raw meat, poultry, eggs, undercooked meats, and foods being held at improper temperatures. Illness can spread more quickly where people are localized in small areas or closed populations, such as restaurants, catered events, child care centers, nursing homes, cruise ships, in the home. These settings increase the amount of contact between people and use of shared toilet facilities.

People who get diarrhea and/or vomiting typically recover without any long-term problems. However, diarrhea and/or vomiting can cause serious dehydration if sick people are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through vomiting or diarrhea. Infants, young children, elderly, and other immunocompromised persons are at greater risk of dehydration. Some people may need to be treated at a medical center or hospitalized for treatment to correct or prevent dehydration.

People can get infected by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with germs
  • Touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated with germs and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Having close contact with a sick person while they are vomiting
  • Sharing food or eating from the same utensils as a sick person
  • Caring for a sick person
  • Shaking hands with a sick person

Infectious Diseases that cause Diarrheal

Common Conditions:

Other Conditions that cause Diarrhea:

See also:



For weekly incidence reports on infectious disease in New Mexico go to:

To create reports, charts, and heat maps with infectious disease surveillance data go to:


  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing diapers, having close contact with ill people, and handing raw meats.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, after preparing food and before eating.
  • Wash utensils, knives, cutting boards, and countertops with hot soapy water before and after preparing food.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables with water.
  • Do not rinse raw meat prior to cooking, germs can splash onto nearby surfaces.
  • Do not use the same cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, fish, and seafood as you do for ready to eat foods and produce that is consumed raw.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods in the grocery cart and refrigerator.
  • Cook foods to a safe internal temperature:
    • 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
    • 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork
    • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey
    • 165°F for leftovers and casseroles
    • 145°F for fresh ham (raw)
    • 145°F for fin fish or cook until flesh is opaque
  • Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. (If outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.)
  • Do not thaw foods at room temperature, thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave.

Information for Healthcare Providers and Laboratories

Culture is the gold standard to identify bacterial pathogens. However, many facilities have adopted Culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDTs help doctors diagnose infections quickly because results can be given in hours instead of days. But positive bacterial results from stool panels by PCR should be reflexed to culture to determine viability of the organism before determining cause of illness. CIDT also impedes detection of outbreaks, antibiotic resistance, and disease trends because without a bacterial culture, public health officials do not get detailed information about the bacteria.

  • Please use the Notifiable Condition Reporting Form Notifiable Condition Reporting Form for reporting notifiable conditions to the New Mexico Department of Health (fax the report to (505) 827-0013). Refer to Notifiable Conditions and Diseases in New Mexico Notifiable Conditions and Diseases in New Mexico for guidance on reporting notifiable conditions, specimen marked with an asterisk should be sent to the state lab for confirmatory testing.

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