So hopefully you’ve read my blogs on influenza (AKA the “flu”) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) over the past month. Just to reemphasize, it’s been an overwhelming season for both of these viruses thus far. And while I don’t want to be an alarmist, there appears to be another seasonal “bug” rearing its ugly head half-way through our winter months here in the U.S. And its presence has recently been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)
The name of this virus is the Norovirus and what the CDC has reported is a new strain of it began appearing in the U.S. in the latter months of 2012. And now half-way through winter, I’m beginning to see it with the same frequency of influenza and RSV in the pediatric patients I care for. My goal here is to shed some insight behind this virus and what can be done to prevent its transmission. Because unfortunately, unlike the rotavirus (another “stomach bug” type of virus,) there is no current vaccine available.
So the symptoms as you can imagine include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain/cramping. There may also be low-grade fever, chills and aches (which may mimic what you see with those who have influenza.) Each year, norovirus is estimated to infect about 20 million individuals here in the U.S. Further humbling numbers include 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths occur each year as well. If there is a positive side of things, it typically only lasts for a couple of days. But as just mentioned, complications (hospitalizations, deaths) can occur.
Transmission typically occurs by eating food or drinking fluids that are contaminated, touching surfaces that are contaminated or having direct contact with someone who has it (e.g. sharing foods/utensils.) And in crowded places (e.g. daycare, school, cruise ships,) it can spread rapidly.
So because there is no vaccine and no specific treatment other than supportive care (e.g. fluid hydration, rest, modifying solid food intake,) prevention
is key. And so I leave you with some basic but helpful trips (from the CDC) to help reduce the transmission of this virus:
- Good hand washing techniques (before eating and after changing diapers, or using the restroom.)
- Wash all fruits and vegetables and make sure shellfish are thoroughly cooked before eating them.
- If you are sick, don’t prepare any food for others until about 3 days after recovering from the illness.
- Keep the house clean if infected…disinfect areas that may be contaminated by vomit or diarrhea.
- Wash all laundry thoroughly.
- Dr. Jeremy
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