There's a relatively new virus in the U.S., and it's getting a lot of notice from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, norovirus causes your stomach and intestines to become inflamed, giving you stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This can, in turn, lead to dehydration and, possibly, the need for hospitalization. In fact, each year, noroviruses cause about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, mostly in young children and the elderly, according to Dr. Aron Hall, an epidemiologist at the CDC specializing in norovirus.
A new strain of norovirus is called GII.4 Sydney norovirus; it was identified in March 2012 in Australia. It is especially easily spread, as the majority of Americans don't yet have an immunity to it, and it takes fewer particles of this virus to make you very sick. According to ABC medical contributor Dr. Richard Besser, it takes 1,000 particles of flu virus to make a person sick; however, it only takes 18 particles of the Sydney strain of norovirus to infect a person. Besser also said that this strain can cause you to become ill within just a few hours of exposure, leading researchers and doctors to nickname it the "Ferrari of viruses."
In the U.S, it is now accounting for about 60 percent of all norovirus outbreaks, according to the CDC. As with most viruses, it is most severe in older adults and children, and others with compromised immune systems.
The Sydney strain of norovirus is like other viruses in that it can be spread via food that is not cooked properly or that is handled by an infected person, as well as by physical contact with a surface touched by an infected person who did not wash his hands well enough or at all. However, the CDC says that the newer Sydney strain can also be spread through the air by droplets sprayed when a sick person vomits. The droplets carries particles that can cause illness for several hours.
Since it is a quick-spreading virus, in close quarters like daycare centers, nursing homes, restaurants, malls or schools, it can spread from person to person quickly through the air, by touching a person's hand, touching a surface that was touched by an infected person's hand (even hours after he touched that surface), eating food prepared by someone with the virus or drinking from the cup of someone who has the virus.
It is important to note that the CDC says that hand sanitizers are not enough to kill the Sydney strain of norovirus. It appears to need the friction of thorough handwashing with soap and water, then rinsing the virus off with the water, to be removed. This does not occur with hand sanitizer.
It is also important to note that you can still spread the virus up to three days after you feel well again, according to the CDC website.
The CDC offers the following tips to help prevent and control the spread of norovirus:
Follow these procedures carefully to avoid getting the virus or to avoid spreading the virus after it has been contracted. If you do feel that you are sick, call your doctor or health clinic immediately, drink plenty of fluids, and get as much rest as possible.
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