According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of the norovirus, commonly referred to as the stomach bug, are rising across the country.
This flu season, there have been 225 reports of norovirus outbreaks in the US between August and January within the 14 states that provide norovirus data to the CDC. These outbreaks mark a 30% rise in cases when compared to last year’s 172 reported outbreaks.
Norovirus is defined as a contagious virus that causes painful stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
According to the CDC, “everyone is susceptible to the infection, whether by coming into contact with a sick person, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces and then putting hands in their mouth. Infections typically occur between November and April.”
“Norovirus can be found in your vomit or feces even before you start feeling sick. The virus can also stay in your feces for two weeks or more after you feel better.”
This is why we all should wash our hands for at least 20 seconds, which noted that hand sanitizer can be ineffective in killing norovirus,” CDC says.
“You can use hand sanitizers in addition to hand washing, but hand sanitizer is not a substitute for washing your hands with warm water and soap,” the CDC says.
Young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are at the highest risk of infection. While infections can be deadly, cases of that extreme are pretty rare. Around 900 Americans are killed by the Norovirus every year; mainly amongst the elderly population.
Norovirus is also responsible for around 465,000 emergency room visits every year; mostly in young children.
The bathroom is a prime spot to contract the virus, as people often “get norovirus by accidentally getting tiny particles of feces or vomit from an infected person in your mouth,” the CDC says.
“You can shed billions of norovirus particles that you can’t see without a microscope. Only a few norovirus particles can make other people sick.”
“People are most contagious when they are displaying symptoms — particularly when still vomiting and in the initial period after recovering from illness.
There is no treatment for norovirus infections. If sick, the key is hydration,” the CDC says.
“If you have norovirus illness, you should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhea,” the CDC added.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.