Special to SEGAZINE
Less than a month after the influenza season peaked in Georgia, a new strain of an old winter virus is beginning to make its rounds in the region. But the Southeast Health District reports no significant spikes or outbreaks at this time.
The Centers for Disease Control classified Georgia as one of 47 states reporting outbreaks of the new Sidney strain of the common winter stomach illness known as the Norovirus. The new strain first appeared in Australia last year.
The virus is commonly known as the stomach flu or sometimes food poisoning since it is the lead cause of food-borne disease in the United States – often resulting from infected or unwashed fruits and vegetables or even shellfish that isn’t cooked properly.
Though officials are saying the outbreak is on par with what is commonly seen at this time of year, that may not be much comfort for those that already have the symptoms which commonly include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea or stomach cramping.
Once someone catches the virus, there’s not much they can do other than wait it out according to CDC officials who also said that the virus typically runs its course in one or two days. During that time the person with the sickness is highly contagious.
Officials said that the typical preventative steps associated with most common illnesses are the best way to limit chances of catching the bug – especially since there is no vaccine to prevent it and no medication to take once a person has it.
And people who have had it before can also still become infected again.
Practicing good hygiene – with soap since hand-sanitizer will not kill the bug – and taking care to wash fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them are major steps along with thoroughly cooking oysters and other shellfish.
Those with the virus should also not handle food while infected and any surface that has been contaminated by vomit or other bodily fluids should be disinfected with bleach. The clothes of those infected should also be cleaned immediately but handled with care to prevent further spread of the virus.
The virus also remains contagious for at least three days after the infected person has recovered from the symptoms but could the contagious period could be even longer.
Though the illness is rarely more than an inconvenience for most people, the impact it has on the elderly due to dehydration makes it a prime point of concern for long-term care facilities where almost 60 percent of cases occurred in the united states in 2010 and 2011.