Today: Jun 17, 2024

The Norovirus that is quickly growing

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Vivian Lissette Rivera –  Special to the Southern News

Like a fresh wildfire, a new type of a norovirus stomach bug is spreading across the country at an alarming rate. Often called “The Sydney Strain,” “Norwalk Virus,” or even “Winter Vomiting Disease,” the new superbug has no vaccinations or any known treatment.

The strain was first identified in March of 2012 in Australia and has sickened more than one million people in the U.K. alone.

Unlike the flu, the norovirus is spread through projectile vomiting particles, ingestion of contaminated food, contaminated fecal matter and of course, direct contact with an infected person. However, the average flu infects the human body when the human breathes in about one-thousand virus particles. The norovirus only needs about twenty particles to infect the body and has nothing to do with influenza. It’s extremely contagious and can be infectious for weeks, even after the person begins to feel better.

“I had it for a while,” said Katlyn Lago, 20. “It was horrible and I couldn’t go to the doctor for it so I had to just wait it out. “

More than 140 outbreaks have been recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. that are linked to the new strain. The norovirus has also hit Japan, New Zealand, Western Europe and a few other parts of the globe.

According to the New Haven Register, last year on a cruise ship called the Queen Mary II, 220 people were stricken with a norovirus. A norovirus in general can spread quickly in places like schools and ships and can cause a severe case of gastroenteritis, along with vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. It can also mutate every few years, making it difficult for vaccinations to work effectively.

Every year, noroviruses are the cause of about 21 million illnesses and 800 deaths, said the CDC.

“The best way to prevent contraction of the norovirus is to wash your hands very well,” said Martha Hughes, a nurse practitioner on Southern’s campus at the Granoff Health and Wellness Center.

“Wash your hands. Good old fashioned soap and water is perfect,” she said.

Hughes also recommends using hand sanitizer whenever possible, along with antibacterial wipes. There are hand sanitizer stands scattered around campus, near the computer labs and library. The CDC, along with general cleanliness, also recommends using bleach to disinfect contaminated surfaces.

It is important to remember to keep hydrated when being ill. Dehydration can happen very quickly due to the severe vomiting and diarrhea. This could cause a drop in blood pressure, which may lead to falls and fainting.

“Liquid intake is essential,” said Darleen D. Johnson, adult nurse practitioner at the Granoff Health and Wellness Center. “Drink plenty of water, and clean any surfaces you touch. This norovirus is all about direct contact. If you’re in a shared area, make sure you keep your hands clean, especially after exiting the bathroom, before and after preparing food, changing diapers, etc.”

Johnson mentions seeing a few students at the Health Center with cases of nausea and vomiting; Norovirus was suspected.

“We did suspect the norovirus was the cause but,” Johnson pauses and knocks on her wooden desk, “hopefully not.”

The CDC is not sure whether the new strain can lead to more outbreaks or serious illnesses, but the situation is being monitored closely.

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