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Home HEALTH Stomach bug cases are back: how not to get sick from norovirus

Stomach bug cases are back: how not to get sick from norovirus

Out the new, in the old?

As COVID slowly moves out of the epidemiological spotlight (but is still here to stay), outbreaks of another nasty germ, norovirus, are making a comeback and returning to pre-pandemic numbers, according to a new CDC report.

Commonly known as the stomach flu, “cruise ship virus,” food poisoning, or stomach virus, norovirus is the kind of germ you’ll never forget if you (and probably all of your family and friends at the same time) experience its symptoms. It is an extremely contagious pathogen that causes acute gastroenteritis, or inflammation in the stomach or intestines, resulting in intense episodes of diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and nausea. Symptoms can last up to three days and can also include headaches, fever, and body aches in some people.

Although it is sometimes called gastroenteritis, it has nothing to do with influenza, the respiratory virus that comes in waves every year. There is no vaccine for norovirus.

Contact with contaminated poop or vomit particles it can make you sick, and that can happen by sharing eating utensils, consuming food or liquids prepared by an infected person, or changing a diaper, for example. Although norovirus affects people of all ages, children younger than 5 years and adults older than 65 years are more likely than people in other age groups to have severe symptoms.

The insect hooks at approx. 20 million people each year in the US, causing about 900 deaths (mainly among adults age 65 and older) and about 109,000 hospitalizations.

But after a quiet 2020 and 2021, likely due to COVID preventative measures that forced many other viruses into hiding, norovirus made a rapid comeback starting in January of this year, according to data from 12 state health departments. The number of reported outbreaks in the 2021-2022 surveillance year was almost three times higher than that of 2020-2021.

“I think a lot of people have forgotten that there are other viruses these days, but norovirus is still here,” said Anita Kambhampati, an epidemiologist at the CDC and lead author of the report. “So this is just a reminder that we’re seeing that return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Between August 2021 and July 2022, 992 norovirus outbreaks were reported to the CDC, compared to 343 in the previous surveillance year (when COVID dominated the virus landscape) and 1,056 the year before. For further comparison, there were about 1,200 and 1,400 norovirus outbreaks reported between 2015 and 2016 and between 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Most of the outbreaks (59%) included in the new report occurred in long-term care facilities, which is not unusualKambhampati confirmed; the pre-pandemic range was between 53% and 68%. Norovirus typically enters healthcare facilities through infected patients, staff, visitors, or contaminated food, with outbreaks sometimes lasting for months.

Outbreaks are also common in schools, dormitories, restaurants, daycare centers, and cruise ships, places where people share dining rooms and close living spaces.

Norovirus generally spreads easily where there is a lot of close person-to-person contact and little access to hand hygiene, including outdoor activities. In fact, outbreaks have been documented in Grand Canyon National Park after backpacking trips and river rafting.

the Major Norovirus Outbreak it began in April when seven people in a commercial rafting group experienced vomiting and diarrhea, according to a CDC report. By June, at least 222 rafters and backpackers in the area had contracted a suspected norovirus infection. Swabs from portable toilets used by river rafting groups tested positive for the germ.

The good news is that the norovirus circulating in the population is working as expected and shows no signs of mutating into more severe versions of itself, Sara Mirza, a CDC epidemiologist and co-author of the new report, told BuzzFeed News.

“At least that’s not what the data we’ve seen so far have shown us,” Mirza said. “But it’s something we’re monitoring.”

The same strain of norovirus that has been spreading this year first appeared in 2015 and makes up a large portion of new cases.

“We definitely hope to see a return to more of our traditional norovirus season,” Mirza said. The United States is already seeing other viruses, especially those that affect the respiratory tract, making comebacks also.

How to avoid getting sick from norovirus

Norovirus outbreaks can happen anytime, anywhere, but they tend to hit between November and April, when more people gather indoors to escape cooler temperatures. This means that hand hygiene is particularly important during the holiday season, when you may share meals and utensils prepared and prepared by others.

A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after exposure, and most people recover within one to three days. As few as 18 viral particles are needed to make a person sick, the CDC says. Infected people shed billions of these particles in their stool and vomit while they have symptoms and can continue to do so even when they feel better. Feces can carry norovirus for more than two weeks after a person has recovered.

Therefore, you may want to be extra careful if you share a bathroom with someone who is sick. Norovirus particles can become aerosolized when a toilet containing contaminated vomit or diarrhea is flushed, so closing the lid is a good idea, Kambhampati said.

Projectile vomiting, which is common with norovirus, can also cause aerosolization.

However, norovirus is not a respiratory germ, so wearing a face mask is not the best way to avoid infection, Kambhampati said. But using a simple one in situations where you may be cleaning up after someone infected can help you avoid touching your mouth or inhaling droplets.

The virus can survive on a variety of surfaces, such as countertops and serving utensils. and in the water – for up to two weeks. It can even remain infectious in food at temperatures below freezing and those above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

And probably worst of all is the fact that norovirus resists many common disinfectants and hand sanitizers, so the best way to avoid infection is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after eating and after eating. using the bathroom. (In the case of the rafting outbreaks, the hand sanitizer was not enough to kill the germs.)

In general, it’s a good idea to avoid touching your face (especially your mouth) in public.

If you’re caring for someone with norovirus, experts recommend wearing a simple mask and disposable gloves when cleaning areas you touch and use. Start by wiping down all contaminated surfaces with paper towels and spray on a bleach-based cleaner, leaving it on for at least five minutes. Then you should clean the entire area again with hot soapy water. It’s a good idea to then put the sick person’s clothes in the washing machine, take out the trash, and wash your hands.

Unfortunately, you can get norovirus multiple times because different strains can infect you. Although you do develop some immunity to specific types of norovirus after infection, experts don’t yet know how long it lasts.

There are no treatments for the virus, but with consistent hygiene and plenty of fluids (repetitive vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration), you’ll be well on your way to recovery.


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