Blog | Monday, February 4, 2013

New norovirus strain strikes the U.S.

A new strain of Norovirus has hit the United States with a vengeance. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports it is from Australia and was first detected in March 2012. The new strain is proving to be very fast spread and virulent. It is called GII.4 Sydney. During the last 4 months of 2012, GII.4 Sydney accounted for 53% of 266 norovirus outbreaks in the United States reported through an electronic laboratory surveillance system called CaliciNet. About half of the new virus outbreaks resulted from direct person-to-person transmission; another 20% were foodborne.

Norovirus comes on suddenly and causes nausea, strong vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It is highly contagious and spreads easily in closed environments like cruise ships, day care, nursing homes and military barracks. Norovirus is most prevalent during the winter months and is the most common cause of gastroenteritis or food-borne illness.

What can you do to protect yourself against Norovirus or other types of food poisoning? Most importantly, washing hands with soap and water, disinfecting surfaces, rinsing fruits and vegetables, cooking shellfish thoroughly and not preparing food or caring for others while ill.

For everything you ever wanted to know about Norovirus, see my previous post here.

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.