Norovirus Is Surging Across U.S., Highest In The Northeast

Norovirus isn’t called the “Winter Vomiting Bug” for nothing. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, often in a “projectile vomiting” and “explosive diarrhea” type of way. And outbreaks and surges tend to occur during the Winter. This current Winter is no exception, as the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that surges have been occurring throughout much of the U.S.

The Northeastern portion of the U.S. has been experiencing the biggest surge with over 13% of norovirus tests coming back positive for the bug since late January. The next highest region has been the Western part of the U.S., where test positivity rates have pushed above 12% in recent weeks. Now, these numbers are still lower than last Winter’s peaks that saw norovirus test positivity rates push well above 15% across the country.

Keep in mind that test positivity is only a very rough measure of overall norovirus activity. Such a measure depends on how many norovirus tests are ordered on a given day or during a given week. This, of course, can vary based on a a lot of different factors. For example, if there is more news of norovirus outbreaks, healthcare professionals may be more likely to order a norovirus test for someone with symptoms of some kind of gastroenteritis.

Most people with a norovirus infection won’t end up getting tested for norovirus unless they do go to some kind of healthcare setting. And even in a healthcare setting, doctors don’t always end up testing for norovirus. That’s because there is no specific treatment available for norovirus.

Instead, you and doctors are left to manage the symptoms of a norovirus infection and try to keep them from leading to further complications. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping that typically begin 12 to 48 hours after the virus has gone down your pie hole and last from one to three days. You may experience a low-grade fever, chills, headaches and muscle aches as well.

The biggest issue with norovirus infection symptoms is that they don’t tend to be your run-of-the-mill gastroenteritis symptoms. As the words “projectile” and “explosive” suggest, the vomiting and diarrhea with norovirus usually are a lot worse. We’re talking about oh-my-goodness-what’s-going-on and I’m-just-going-to-camp-out-on-or-next-to-the-toilet-bowl worse.

Since there can be a lot of fluid coming out of both ends, a real risk is dehydration. Such dehydration can cause lots of complications, potentially life-threatening ones, especially if you are a young child or an older adult or have other medical conditions. If you are noticing a decrease in the urine that you producing, a dry mouth and throat or dizziness when you stand up, you are likely dehydrated and need to up your intake of fluids. Of course, “drink this” may not be the first thing you want to hear when you’ve been vomiting. So, if you are finding that you can’t keep pace with the fluid loss, you may want to be seen by a doctor.

Another big issue with this little virus is that it can be super-contagious. In some ways, norovirus is the Thanos of gastrointestinal pathogens. It can survive through all sorts of standard cleaning materials. Plus, only 10 to 100 virus particles are needed to infect an individual. Just like the Avengers needed the Infinity Stones to vanquish Thanos, you’ll need a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1,000 to 5,000 ppm or some kind of other disinfecting products that has been registered with the Environemntal Protection Agency (EPA) for being effective against norovirus. You can use such a bleach solution or disinfectant on surfaces but don’t, don’t, don’t use it on people. Never ingest or inject bleach into your body, no matter who may suggest doing that.

Also, since this virus is super-contagious, take proper precautions when you have or are around norovirus. Wear rubber or disposable gloves when handling any objects or surfaces that may be contaminated. When you discard anything that may have been contaminated, make sure that no one—especially kids, pets and any pets that you may treat as kids—accidentally touches the stuff. It’s never a good idea to say, “Junior, go play with the garbage.” But in this case, garbage that’s not been properly sequestered could start an outbreak. Additionally, keep anyone who has a norovirus infection physically isolated. This is not the time to start licking their possessions either.

Time will tell whether the U.S. has already hit the norovirus peak for this Winter or if there will be new heights to reach. Moreover, the spread of norovirus isn’t limited just to the Wintertime. As the CDC curves show, while norovirus activity tends to dip during the warmer months, it can still be around during all other months, despite its very “Winter” moniker.

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