New Vomiting Disease Norovirus Hits US

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A new strain of norovirus accounted for 58% of the reported cases of what some people call "stomach flu" last month.

As if this year's robust flu season weren't enough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports today that a new strain of the vomiting disease norovirus has reached the USA from Australia. Last month, the bug, which causes nausea, forceful vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, accounted for 58% of outbreaks of norovirus nationally.

It's not clear whether this strain is more likely to infect people or make them more ill than previous strains, but according to Aron Hall, an epidemiologist with the CDC's division of viral diseases, any time a new strain emerges, it has the potential to increase disease "because people haven't been exposed to it before, so they're more susceptible."

The norovirus season typically runs from November through March and peaks in January.

"This year, that unfortunately coincides with an early increase in flu season," Hall said. Some people mistakenly call norovirus "stomach flu," but aside from timing, "there's no connection between them at all," he said.

Norovirus typically begins very suddenly and lasts one to three days. Most people recover without treatment, but some require rehydration with liquids or intravenous fluids. The disease is most severe in the elderly and can also hit young children hard. Every year, more than 21 million Americans become infected with acute stomach bugs, called gastroenteritis by doctors, and approximately 800 die, according to the CDC. Much of that is probably from norovirus, Hall said.

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SOURCE: USA Today
Elizabeth Weise
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