WASHINGTON, DC: The stomach flu season has officially arrived in the United States and it's probably not something that you were looking forward to. Stomach flu, sometimes also referred to as a stomach bug, is a highly transmittable gastrointestinal illness, which is typically caused by norovirus infection. A person who is suffering from stomach flu will show signs of vomiting, diarrhea, and fever in children and adults. The disease can even prove fatal without proper treatment.
Americans are now being warned about widespread outbreaks across the country, including in all 14 states that participate in the CDC’s norovirus reporting program by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NoroSTAT agency spokesperson Kate Grusich told Today.com. The CDC recorded 225 norovirus outbreaks between August 1, 2022, and January 8, 2023, a 30% jump from last year’s count of 172 during the same period. These alarming stats are especially a matter of concern for already-stressed healthcare systems still reeling from a pandemic.
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Novovirus is the cause behind some 20 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea, 109,000 hospitalizations, and 900 deaths annually.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of stomach flu include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, along with fever, headache, and body aches. For most healthy adults and children, these symptoms are uncomfortable but manageable. But the most vulnerable group of people are infants, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals who face a higher risk of dehydration and other complications.
The symptoms usually appear within 12 to 24 hours of exposure.
How does it spread?
Even a small colony of the virus can seriously weaken a healthy individual. Just 100 particles are enough to make one sick, though infected people have to go to the washroom several times a day. Unwashed hands transmit the germs to other surfaces, and they soon end up in the hands, and then the mouths, of others. Kids become important here as they are likely to transmit more viruses to classmates, siblings, and parents.
How can it be treated and prevented?
The most worrying part of the disease is that there is no definite cure for it. Doctors and other medical professionals cannot guarantee to relieve its symptoms, since many experience norovirus in different ways. The best way to get rid of it is by remaining hydrated as diarrhea and vomiting will deplete the body’s fluids. Water and electrolyte-replenishing drinks such as Pedialyte should be consumed on a frequent basis during infection.
Doctors usually recommend sick patients try eating bland foods, such as crackers for nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Pain relievers and anti-nausea medicine can always be used to lower the level of discomfort. Most of the patients who fall ill recover without any special medical attention, but they need to be confined to an isolated place to prevent spreading their symptoms to others. Patients suffering from dry mouth, decreased urination, and dizziness for a prolonged period require special medical attention.