Amid an already rough flu season, a new nasty strain of norovirus, a highly contagious stomach virus, is causing misery in the United States and around the globe.
It's overloading hospitals and causing cruise ships to turn around and head back to port.
The virus, known as the “winter vomiting disease” causes your stomach or intestines — or both — to become inflamed (acute gastroenteritis) followed by stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and throwing up.
Fever, headaches, dizziness and body aches may also occur with the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in its January 25, 2013 weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report that the new superbug known as GII.4 Sydney was first detected in Australia, but is quickly taking hold throughout the country.
The United States now accounts for about 60 percent of norovirus outbreaks.
Anyone can get the norovirus, and you can get it more than once. In fact, each year it causes 21 million illnesses. It contributes to 70,000 hospitalizations and about 800 deaths.
Children, older people and those whose immune systems are compromised, such as people undergoing cancer treatments, can be hardest hit. These people may experience a more severe or longer lasting illness and may become dehydrated.
Most people, however, recover in one to three days without medical attention.
Although a norovirus bug shares many symptoms with the stomach flu it is entirely different.
The stomach flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Norovirus, however, is one of several causes of food poisoning.
A norovirus can sweep through a large number of people rapidly, particularly in closed places like schools, daycares, nursing homes, church, camp, restaurants and cruise ships.
Last month, 220 people on the Queen Mary II were stricken with a norovirus during a Caribbean cruise.
The norovirus is spread by:
- Infected food handlers who don’t properly wash their hands after going to the bathroom.