If you and your family have all been vaccinated against influenza, you're pretty well set to withstand flu season in Connecticut.
This year's norovirus is — at least among schoolchildren in Middletown — more severe than even the flu, according to Middletown Director of Public Health Joseph Havilcek.
"It's probably more contagious, easily passes from human to human, than influenza is," he warns. And the city of Middletown is experiencing the worse influenza season in the last 10 years, according to Havlicek. It began five weeks earlier than usual.
As far as norovirus among school-age children, "I get reports every single day from every single school in Middletown," Havileck says. "I started about a month ago tracking all absentees and the nurses would write a note about what they're seeing."
The symptoms are nasty. "There's a lot of diarrhea and vomiting. It's not a fun thing to get, and there's no specific treatment."
Even the flu this year is hitting a different demographic — post-college-age adults — than past years, Havilcek says.
"It's funny because the influenza virus is very specific and particular about who it attacks for some reason. Some years it's the young kids, some years it's old people, this year it seems to be people who are 25."
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining (gastroenteritis); they are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the United States, according to Web MD.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports norovirus causes about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year, mostly in young children and the elderly.
Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains. The CDC points out that the norovirus is often referred to as the stomach flu, but it is actually unrelated to influenza.
The first norovirus outbreak was reported in Ohio in 1968. Today, 21 million illnesses are attributable to norovirus in the United States annually, reports the CDC. Of those, 25 percent can be attributed to food-borne transmissions.
This hardy virus is extremely contagious and, it turns out, mom was right about one thing. The BBC reports norovirus is one of the few infections you can catch from a toilet seat. It can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees, which makes eating raw fish such as oysters particularly dangerous.
"The norovirus probably lives on an inanimate surface like a desk for 24 to 48 hours," Havilcek says. "So somebody touches it or a play toy; now you touch it; you put your hand in your mouth or up to your mouth and now you've got it."
5 Tips to Prevent Norovirus From Spreading
1. Practice proper hand hygiene
2. Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly
3. When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others
4. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces
5. Wash laundry thoroughly
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