New nasty stomach bug traveling across US
If the flu wasn’t enough to contend with this year, a nasty norovirus bug is making its way across the country, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain, called GII.4 Sydney, was found first in Australia in March 2012.
“The new strain spread rapidly across the United States from September to December 2012,” said Dr. Aron Hall, an epidemiologist at the CDC, in a statement. The percentage of norovirus outbreaks caused by the new strain hit 58 percent in December, up from 19 percent in September.
The highly contagious bug, sometimes called “food poisoning,” causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. The CDC says nearly 800 people in the United States die from the virus each year with the oldest and youngest the most vulnerable. More than 20 million Americans get infected with norovirus annually.
The germ is spread through direct contact and also through tainted food and water. Outbreaks are most common from November to April and spike in January. Since it is a viral infection and not bacterial, antibiotics are not prescribed for treatment.
Health experts say the best way to protect yourself from infection is to wash your hands often, rinse fruits and vegetables before eating, cook shellfish thoroughly and keep surfaces in your home clean.
Experts at the CDC said it’s too early to determine if this year’s outbreaks will outpace previous years.
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