Stomach flu cases are rising in the Midwest, CDC data shows. Here’s what you need to know – NBC Chicago
Norovirus cases are increasing in the United States, particularly in the Midwest, where cases are already above levels seen in 2022, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While most norovirus cases typically occur between November and April of any given year, cases in the Midwest have increased significantly since mid-January, according to the latest measurements.
CDC data showed that the rate of positive tests for norovirus on average over three weeks rose from 11.5% on January 14 to 19.5% on February 4.
Around this time last year, the same metric averaged 10.2%.
The surge in cases reflects a national trend, where cases have also skyrocketed in recent weeks. On Saturday, however, the Midwest number appeared to be the highest in the country.
Norovirus, often called the stomach flu, although not related to the flu, “is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea” in people of all ages, the CDC states.
But even with rising numbers, the CDC says the levels are not out of the expected range.
“Norovirus outbreaks and cases reported by state health departments and clinical labs are increasing but remain within the expected range for this time of year,” CDC spokeswoman Kate Grusich said at NBC News.
Grusich noted that “prevention measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic” may have led to lower numbers last year.
Noroviruses are the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States, the agency notes, adding that “in years when there is a new strain of the virus, there can be 50% more norovirus illness.” .
On average, noroviruses cause about 900 deaths each year in the United States, with 109,000 additional hospitalizations and between 19 and 21 million reported illnesses.
So what can you do as cases increase?
Here’s what you need to know:
What are the symptoms of norovirus?
According to the Illinois Department of Health, “many noroviruses cause similar symptoms.”
Onset usually occurs within 24 to 48 hours of exposure. These symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Mild fever
“Symptoms typically last 24 to 60 hours and resolve on their own,” reports the Illinois Department of Public Health. “There are no known long-term effects after recovery from this infection.”
How does it spread?
IDPH notes that only humans can transmit norovirus because “these viruses do not multiply outside the human body.”
They can be spread through a lack of hand washing and food handling, contaminated drinking water, shellfish, and possibly through objects “contaminated with feces”.
“You can catch norovirus by accidentally getting tiny particles of feces (poop) or vomit from an infected person into your mouth,” the CDC reports.
When are people with norovirus most contagious?
The CDC reports that people with norovirus are most contagious when they show symptoms, especially vomiting, and during the first few days after recovery. But, the agency notes that some studies have shown that people can still spread the virus for two weeks or more after symptoms disappear.
Is there a treatment for norovirus?
There is no specific treatment or medication available for people with norovirus, but experts say those suffering from vomiting or diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
How can I prevent norovirus?
Experts say good hygiene can be key to preventing noroviruses.
Illinois health officials suggest the following:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and steam oysters before eating.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of diarrhea or vomiting using a household bleach-based cleaner. If you use liquid household bleach prepared daily, one part bleach to nine parts water (1:10 dilution) is recommended.
- Immediately remove and wash any clothing or linens that may be contaminated with feces or vomit (use hot water and soap).
- Flush or flush any vomit and/or stool down the toilet and ensure the surrounding area is kept clean.
- People infected with norovirus should refrain from preparing food while they have symptoms and for three days after recovering from their illness.