Super Bug or Norovirus Rampant in U.S., Symptoms Present Within 48 Hours of Exposure

As flu season wanes a new Super Bug from Australia is taking its place in the spotlight.

A new strain of the highly contagious norovirus has reached the U.S. from Australia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the new norovirus, named GII.4 Sydney because it's believed to have started in Sydney, Australia, is currently the leading cause of norovirus outbreaks in the U.S.

In the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Jan. 25, the norovirus is described as: the leading cause of epidemic gastroenteritis, including foodborne outbreaks, in the U.S. hospitalization and mortality associated with norovirus infection occur most frequently among elderly persons, young children, and immunocompromised patients.

An article in Time, Health and Family reported that the norovirus is: often confused with the stomach flu because of its contemporaneous circulation with influenza during winter months, norovirus causes 21 million cases of illness, often involving severe vomiting and diarrhea, 70,000 hospitalizations each year in the U.S., and 800 deaths. Where influenza is a respiratory illness, norovirus, which comes in five forms, favors the stomach and intestinal tract, causing inflammation of tissues that leads to pain, nausea, and the diarrhea and vomiting.

Time reports that the CDC says 51 percent of the cases in the U.S. were caused by person-to-person transmission, and 20 percent resulted from contaminated food. Most infections occur in places where large numbers of people are gathered, such as schools, nursing homes and cruise ships, where the virus can pass easily from host to host.

The CDC reports reports the new strain of norovirus was first identified in March 2012 in Australia and has since sickened people on several continents.

So far, no treatments exist for the norovirus but a group of scientists are currently testing a vaccine developed by LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals, according to Time. The shot contains a part of the norovirus’ outer layer, which they hope will generate a strong immune response in those who get immunized.

Preventing infection with norovirus is similar to protecting against influenza. 

The CDC recommends the following:

  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before handling food.
  • Carefully wash produce and seafood before cooking and consuming them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them. Be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish.
  • When you’re sick, wait two-three days after you recover before preparing food for anyone. Many local and state health departments require that food handlers and preparers with norovirus illness not work until at least two to three days after they recover. If you were recently sick, you can be given different duties in the restaurant, such as working at a cash register or hosting.

Editor's Note: This story first appeared on the Caledonia Patch.


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Jackknife January 31, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Worst is over in the UK thankfully. http://www.squidoo.com/norovirus2 has all the information about the virus including how to prevent it and control an outbreak.


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