New stomach bug hits United States - FOX 13 News

New stomach bug hits United States

Posted: Updated:

By MIKE STOBBE

NEW YORK (AP) — A new strain of stomach bug sweeping the globe is taking over in the U.S., health officials say.

Since September, more than 140 outbreaks in the U.S. have been caused by the new Sydney strain of norovirus. It may not be unusually dangerous; some scientists don't think it is. But it is different, and many people might not be able to fight off its gut-wrenching effects.

Clearly, it's having an impact. The new strain is making people sick in Japan, Western Europe, and other parts of the world. It was first identified last year in Australia and called the Sydney strain.

In the U.S., it is now accounting for about 60 percent of norovirus outbreaks, according to report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Norovirus — once known as Norwalk virus — is highly contagious and often spreads in places like schools, cruise ships and nursing homes, especially during the winter. Last month, 220 people on the Queen Mary II were stricken during a Caribbean cruise.

Sometimes mistakenly called stomach flu, the virus causes bouts of vomiting and diarrhea for a few days.

Every two or three years, a new strain evolves — the last was in 2009. The Sydney strain's appearance has coincided with a spike in influenza, perhaps contributing to the perception that this is a particularly bad flu season in the U.S.

Ian Goodfellow, a prominent researcher at England's University of Cambridge, calls norovirus 'the Ferrari of viruses' for the speed at which it passes through a large group of people.

"It can sweep through an environment very, very quickly. You can be feeling quite fine one minute and within several hours suffer continuous vomiting and diarrhea," he said.

Health officials have grown better at detecting new strains and figuring out which one is the culprit. They now know that norovirus is also the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.S.

It's spread by infected food handlers who don't do a good job washing their hands after using the bathroom. But unlike salmonella and other foodborne illnesses, norovirus can also spread in the air, through droplets that fly when a sick person vomits.

"It's a headache" to try to control, said Dr. John Crane, a University of Buffalo infectious disease specialist who had to deal with a norovirus outbreak in a hospital ward a couple of years ago.

Each year, noroviruses cause an estimated 21 million illnesses and 800 deaths, the CDC says.

For those infected, there's really no medicine. They just have to ride it out for the day or two of severe symptoms, and guard against dehydration, experts said.

The illness even got the attention of comedian Stephen Colbert, who this week tweeted: "Remember, if you're in public and have the winter vomiting bug, be polite and vomit into your elbow."

  • HealthMore>>

  • Allergy season expected to be bad

    Allergy season expected to be bad

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 6:56 AM EDT2014-04-16 10:56:12 GMT
    There is not much relief in sight for allergy sufferers. Experts say a shortened spring due to the long winter may create a more intense allergy season.  Some allergists say they've already seen a noticeable increase in patients as the weather has gotten warmer.
    There is not much relief in sight for allergy sufferers. Experts say a shortened spring due to the long winter may create a more intense allergy season.  Some allergists say they've already seen a noticeable increase in patients as the weather has gotten warmer.
  • FDA's warning letter to maker of controversial supplement Craze

    FDA's warning letter to maker of controversial supplement Craze

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 10:38 PM EDT2014-04-16 02:38:33 GMT
    A report first surfaced last year about meth-like substances in Craze. The product was immediately pulled from the shelves of many major retailers, including Walmart. Now the federal government is taking its first action against the company behind the product. The supplement Craze was marketed as a product offering endless energy, a preworkout supplement popular with body builders. But a warning letter from the FDA confirms what Harvard scientists have previously alleged.
    A report first surfaced last year about meth-like substances in Craze. The product was immediately pulled from the shelves of many major retailers, including Walmart. Now the federal government is taking its first action against the company behind the product. The supplement Craze was marketed as a product offering endless energy, a preworkout supplement popular with body builders. But a warning letter from the FDA confirms what Harvard scientists have previously alleged.
  • Helping amputees achieve their potential

    Helping amputees achieve their potential

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 6:57 PM EDT2014-04-15 22:57:41 GMT

    A Step Ahead Prosthetics in Hicksville, Long Island, customizes prosthetics for people from all over the world. There are cosmetic ones made to mimic actual skin and lightweight "blades" made of carbon graphite designed for running. Aviva Drescher of "The Real Housewives of New York City" wears a prosthetic.

    A Step Ahead Prosthetics in Hicksville, Long Island, customizes prosthetics for people from all over the world. There are cosmetic ones made to mimic actual skin and lightweight "blades" made of carbon graphite designed for running. Aviva Drescher of "The Real Housewives of New York City" wears a prosthetic.

Powered by WorldNow

FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
3213 West Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, Florida 33609
Main: (813) 876-1313
Newsroom: (813) 870-9630
Fax: (813) 871-3135

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices