You may have seen news stories lately about Norovirus, a virus that can cause Gastroenteritis (stomach flu). In fact, case numbers got so high around the country that the CDC issued warnings. Through the first several weeks of 2013, Centra Care physicians saw a steady number of patients suffering from Gastroenteritis, but nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until this past week, when the number of cases took a big increase. And signs point to Norovirus as the probable cause.
Norovirus is a very contagious virus. Contracted from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, the virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute Gastroenteritis). This leads to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
Anyone can be infected with Norovirus and get sick. And you can have a Norovirus illness many times in your life. It can be serious, especially for young children and older adults.
Norovirus is the most common cause of acute Gastroenteritis in the United States. Each year, it causes about 21 million illnesses and contributes to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths. Norovirus is also the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States.
Beware, Gastroenteritis often leads to dehydration. So watch out for symptoms, including: decreased urination, extreme lethargy and light-headedness.
To prevent a new infection, wash your hands frequently, and do not share beverages or eating utensils. If it’s a child who is ill, parents need to be diligent about hand washing, especially after using the bathroom, handling diapers and when handling or preparing food.
Here are a few recommendations if you or your child has Gastroenteritis:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of clear liquids like water, sport drinks (for adults), and pediatric electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte. But don’t drink too much at one time. It is best to take small frequent sips.
- See a doctor if unable to keep any fluids down.
- Avoid dairy, caffeine, and spicy foods until feeling better.
- Make sure to get plenty of rest.
Gastroenteritis is viral in nature so it can’t be treated with antibiotics. But Centra Care physicians can prescribe medication that can stop the vomiting, slow the diarrhea and prevent dehydration.