Norovirus numbers are up
Stomach bug cases have risen sharply over the past year and you can bet my family has seen it a few times as we seem to pass bugs around this house like bowls of popcorn.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 225 norovirus outbreaks were recorded between Aug. 1, 2022, and Jan. 8, 2023, across 14 states that provided stomach flu data to the agency. That is only the reported numbers.
You have probably seen the news coverage and the pop-ups in your news feeds about a norovirus outbreak nationwide, but the numbers so far are still showing within the average of the years 2012 to 2022. Not to discount the situation, I will note that numbers are higher and the increase is not stopping. I know, that is confusing, but consider that Texas has reported a lot of cases but the CDC compiles its norovirus data from state health departments in Alabama, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Norovirus is highly contagious and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. It can be spread through contact with food, liquids, surfaces or people contaminated with the virus. Families are incredibly susceptible due to close proximity, shared bathrooms, eating together, etc.
An infected person can touch food with their bare hands, for example, and transfer feces or vomit particles that eventually infect another person.
Just a few particles of norovirus can make people sick. Really sick.
While people are most contagious while they are sick with a stomach bug, studies have found norovirus can still be spread for two weeks after recovery.
So, do we quarantine? Not really. Practicing proper hygiene is really the key and we should be pretty good at that by now. Thorough hand washing before eating or preparing food is highly recommended to limit the spread of the stomach flu. Soap and water is preferred, since hand sanitizer does not work well against norovirus.
Norovirus typically kills 900 people annually in the United States, mostly among adults 65 and older. The virus causes more than 100,000 hospitalizations yearly and prompts around 465,000 emergency department visits.
There is not specific medication to treat norovirus. Proper hydration is a key to battling the illness as dehydration is your biggest enemy when dealing with norovirus.
Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain but can also sometimes include fever, headache and body aches. A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days. Again, watch for signs of dehydration especially in the young and the elderly. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth and throat, decrease in urination and feeling dizzy when you stand up.