New Norovirus: Highly Contagious Virus

New Norovirus

A new highly contagious strain of Norovirus is prevelant throughout the U.S. This new strain is so contagious that it accounted for 58% of all U.S. reported cases of gastroenteritis last month.  It was first discovered in Sydney, Australia in March 2012. 

This illness has symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in many cases, fever as well.  Norovirus has peaked in the U.S. in January.  Unfortunately, Norovirus has peaked at the same time as Influenza has peaked.  This has led many people to incorrectly call this “the stomach flu.”  The Norovirus is a virus that causes gastrointestinal illness. The Flu is a respiratory illness caused by the Influenza virus which is unrelated to Norovirus.

Norovirus is highly contagious.  It remains in stools for approximately 2 weeks after the symptoms have resolved.

What can you do to prevent Norovirus infection?
1. Handwashing
2. Rise fruits & vegetables
3. Cook food thoroughly
4. Clean & disinfect surfaces

Handwashing with soap and water is the most important preventative measure one can take to prevent from getting gastroenteritis. Hand sanitizer simply will not be effective.  For little children, specifically toddlers, it is especially difficult for them to keep their fingers and objects out of their mouths.  So, make sure to wash their hands frequently.

Cooking food thoroughly is important because Norovirus can survive in temperatures up to 140°F.  Avoid eating raw foods during this time.

In addition, it is important to disinfect any contaminated surfaces.  The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends bleach water of a combinations of 5-25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water.

What can you do once you have gastroenteritis?
Hydration is the key.  Depending on the age, Pedialyte or sports drinks are recommended to replace the fluids lost.  It’s important to contact your doctor if you or your loved one is unable to tolerate fluids.  Dehydration is serious and can lead to death.

For more information about Norovirus, please go to www.cdc.gov/norovirus.

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About Nancy M. Silva, MD, FAAP

I'm a Board Certified Pediatrician. I've been in practice since 2000. I'm happily married with two children. I graduated Medical School from the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn, NY. My Pediatric Residency training was at University of South Florida, College of Medicine. I've been in private practice since 2000. As a medical student, I had the privilege to care for children at Kings County Hospital & Downstate Medical Center in urban Brooklyn. As a resident, I cared for children at Tampa General Hospital & All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. These experiences helped shape the Pediatrician I am today.

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