McClatchy-Tribune News Service
While the public health emergency stemming from the nationwide outbreak of influenza continues, there’s another winter illness circulating that’s just as effective at delivering a knock out, but it’s not the respiratory system that takes the punch.
Colloquially known by names like the stomach flu or food poisoning, norovirus is another virulent illness that typically peaks around the same time as influenza — December to March — and sporadic reports of the gastrointestinal bug in the local area mean the sick season is just heating up.
Often spread by contact with infected people, surfaces or foods, and considered highly contagious, norovirus attacks the gut, causing inflammation to the stomach and intestines (acute gastroenteritis).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is the most common gastroenteritis in the nation, causing about 21 million illnesses, about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year.
Symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, fever and body aches range in severity and can leave a person extremely ill for 1 to 3 days.
Martha Kloss, nurse practitioner at Dallas Medical in Paducah, said she has seen several people in the last week with symptoms, but one patient was particularly worse for the wear, requiring IV fluids to rehydrate the person following the sickness.
“You really just need to rest, treat the symptoms and try to keep the fluids in,” Kloss said. “I really hope that doesn’t come to be like the flu has been or it could be bad.”
Health officials on the East Coast have reported escalated cases of norovirus alongside spikes in flu-like illnesses. According to reports, a new strain of norovirus has spread rather quickly, likely resulting from the heavy traffic in hospital and clinic waiting rooms.
The highly contagious nature of the virus makes it imperative that people follow good hygiene procedures they would also follow to prevent catching the flu.
Kloss recommended proper hand washing, keeping hands away from the mouth and avoiding contact with potentially contaminated items, to help prevent contracting norovirus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.