Is it plagiarism? Let’s see: Erin Hess Fitch, who is not a doctor, writes what is essentially a medical article for Sun newspapers. It's composed in a recognizable "corporate style:" not an adverb in sight, bland, soulless prose. It contains not a single line of attribution. Red-alert flag goes up.
It's on a topic few care about until the need strikes. It's on a topic that bears no relationship to news. It discusses watery diarrhea, for gawd's sake. More red-alerts.
It's clearly not journalism. But is it plagiarism?
Well, Fitch's article closely follows the wording -- to the point of being identical in many places -- of an article written for the Centers for Disease Control and posted at its Web site. Strike one.
Fitch evasively moves around a few words and does some light editing, but the order of ideas is identical to the text posted at the CDC Web site Strike two.
Fitch puts her by line on the article and presents the report to readers as her own work. Strike three. Yup. That's plagiarism.
Here's the detail.
Sun Hed: Dealing with the dreaded ‘stomach flu’
Erin Hess Fitch: Gastroenteritis, often called the “stomach flu,” is inflammation of the stomach, small and large intestines. It is caused by viruses. These viruses include rotavirus, norovirus and adenovirus. Gastroenteritis is not usually caused by bacteria, parasites, medications or other medical conditions. Symptoms, however, may be very similar to diseases caused by those sources.
CDC: What is viral gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting or diarrhea. It is often called the "stomach flu," although it is not caused by the influenza viruses.
CDC: What causes viral gastroenteritis?
Many different viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including rotaviruses, noroviruses, adenoviruses,type 40 or 41, sapoviruses, and astroviruses. Viral gastroenteritis is not caused by bacteria (such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli) or parasites (such as Giardia), or by medications or other medical conditions, although the symptoms may be similar. Your doctor can determine if the diarrhea is caused by a virus or by something else.
Erin Hess Fitch: Primary symptoms are watery diarrhea and vomiting. You may also have headache, fever and cramps. Symptoms start one or two days following infection with the virus and may last for up to 10 days, depending on which virus caused the illness.
CDC: What are the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis?
The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. The affected person may also have headache, fever, and abdominal cramps ("stomach ache"). In general, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days following infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness.
Erin Hess Fitch: For most healthy adults, gastroenteritis is not a serious illness. However, it can be very serious for infants, young children and people who are unable to care for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly, because they are at a greater risk for dehydration. Immunocompromised people are at risk for dehydration. They may get a more serious illness with greater vomiting or diarrhea and may need to be hospitalized.
CDC: Is viral gastroenteritis a serious illness?
For most people, it is not. People who get viral gastroenteritis almost always recover completely without any long-term problems. Gastroenteritis is a serious illness, however, for persons who are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through vomiting or diarrhea. Infants, young children, and persons who are unable to care for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly, are at risk for dehydration from loss of fluids. Immune compromised persons are at risk for dehydration because they may get a more serious illness, with greater vomiting or diarrhea. They may need to be hospitalized for treatment to correct or prevent dehydration.
Erin Hess Fitch: Viral gastroenteritis is very contagious and can be spread through close contact with sick people; sharing food, water and eating utensils; or by eating or drinking contaminated foods. Food can become contaminated by the people who prepare it or handle it if they do not wash their hands regularly after using the bathroom. Shellfish may be contaminated by sewage. Drinking water may become contaminated by sewage and be the source of the spread of these viruses.
CDC: Is the illness contagious? How are these viruses spread?
Yes, viral gastroenteritis is contagious. The viruses that cause gastroenteritis are spread through close contact with infected persons (for example, by sharing food, water, or eating utensils). Individuals may also become infected by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages.
Erin Hess Fitch: Viral gastroenteritis affects people worldwide, with each virus having its own seasonal activity. In the U.S., rotavirus and astrovirus infections occur in the cooler months of the year, October to April. Adenovirus infections can occur throughout the year. Norovirus outbreaks can occur in an institutional setting: schools, child-care facilities and nursing homes. It also is seen in other group settings such as banquet halls, cruise ships, dormitories and campgrounds.
CDC: Where and when does viral gastroenteritis occur?
Viral gastroenteritis affects people in all parts of the world. Each virus has its own seasonal activity. For example, in the United States, rotavirus and astrovirus infections occur during the cooler months of the year (October to April), whereas adenovirus infections occur throughout the year. Norovirus outbreaks can occur in institutional settings, such as schools, child care facilities, and nursing homes, and can occur in other group settings, such as banquet halls, cruise ships, dormitories, and campgrounds.
Erin Hess Fitch: People of all ages and backgrounds can get viral gastroenteritis. People in specific age groups are more susceptible to some viruses. Rotavirus and norovirus are most common in infants and young children under 5. Adenoviruses and astroviruses are most common in young children, but older children and adults can contract the illness. Noroviruses most commonly cause diarrhea in older children and adults.
CDC: Who gets viral gastroenteritis?
Anyone can get it. Viral gastroenteritis occurs in people of all ages and backgrounds. However, some viruses tend to cause diarrheal disease primarily among people in specific age groups. Rotavirus and norovirus infections are the most common cause of diarrhea in infants and young children under 5 years old. Adenoviruses and astroviruses cause diarrhea mostly in young children, but older children and adults can also be affected. Norwalk and Noroviruses are more likely to cause diarrhea in older children and adults.
Erin Hess Fitch: Viral gastroenteritis is generally diagnosed by a doctor on the basis of symptoms and an exam of the patient. Rotavirus can be diagnosed by lab testing of stool specimens.
CDC: How is viral gastroenteritis diagnosed?
Generally, viral gastroenteritis is diagnosed by a physician on the basis of the symptoms and medical examination of the patient. Rotavirus infection can be diagnosed by laboratory testing of a stool specimen. Tests to detect other viruses that cause gastroenteritis are not in routine use, but the viral gastroenteritis unit at CDC can assist with special analysis upon request.
Erin Hess Fitch: The most important component of treatment for viral gastroenteritis is to prevent dehydration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that families with infants and young children keep a supply of oral rehydration solution (Pedialyte) at home at all times, and use it when the first diarrheal episode occurs. It is important to follow the written directions on the package and to use clean, bottled or boiled water. Antibiotics (which have no effect on viruses) and other treatments should be given only on recommendation from a doctor.
CDC: How is viral gastroenteritis treated?
The most important of treating viral gastroenteritis in children and adults is to prevent severe loss of fluids (dehydration). This treatment should begin at home. Your physician may give you specific instructions about what kinds of fluid to give. CDC recommends that families with infants and young children keep a supply of oral rehydration solution (ORS) at home at all times and use the solution when diarrhea first occurs in the child. ORS is available at pharmacies without a prescription. Follow the written directions on the ORS package, and use clean or boiled water. Medications, including antibiotics (which have no effect on viruses) and other treatments, should be avoided unless specifically recommended by a physician.
Erin Hess Fitch: Viral gastroenteritis infections can be reduced by frequent handwashing, prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces with a household bleach solution (1 to 10 dilution) and prompt washing of soiled clothing in hot water. Food or water that is thought to be contaminated should be avoided.
CDC: Can viral gastroenteritis be prevented?
Persons can reduce their chance of getting infected by frequent handwashing, prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners, and prompt washing of soiled articles of clothing. If food or water is thought to be contaminated, it should be avoided.
Erin Hess Fitch: For more information about viral gastroenteritis, call your personal physician or the Hardee County Health Department at 863-773-4161. You may also visit the CDC Web site at cdc.gov.