Early observations of gastroenteritis-type diseases date back to the time of Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC). At that time, teething, weaning, and hot temperatures were assumed to contribute to gastroenteritis in infants. But, it was only in 1825 that the term ‘gastroenteritis’ was first used to describe the illness .
While gastroenteritis was initially suspected to be a viral infection, it was not confirmed until the late 1960s when an outbreak affected students at an elementary school in Norwalk, Ohio, USA. During this period, the Norovirus (previously called Norwalk virus) was first described. Norovirus is one of the main causative agents of the disease. 50% of the students in Norwalk had the virus in their stool .
In 1972, the virus was visualized for the first time through immunoelectron microscopy and was found to be small and round in structure . One year later, in 1973, the ‘Rotavirus,’ another source of the stomach flu, was first observed in the small intestines of children with diarrhea through electron microscopy . The virus was named ‘Rotavirus’ because of its wheel-like appearance [1,7]. Within a few years, it was recognized as one of the most common causes of diarrhea in young children worldwide. Nearly one-third of these children had been hospitalized with rotavirus infection .