Norovirus, the unpleasant stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea, is on the rise throughout the United States, and there’s no indication that Texas has avoided the surge.
The share of people testing positive for norovirus has more than doubled in the last three months, from 7.6% to almost 17% last week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There’s no exact data of the number of cases in Texas, because the virus is not a reportable condition in the state, according to the state health department. But the data that is available indicates that the spread of the virus remains high in the U.S.
What are the symptoms of norovirus?
Norovirus causes inflammation of the intestines or the stomach, which can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain, according to the CDC. The illness can cause people infected to vomit and have diarrhea multiple times in a day, which in turn can lead to dehydration. The illness typically lasts between one and three days.
In a typical season, norovirus has caused about 900 deaths and between 19 to 21 million total illnesses, according to the federal government. There is no up-to-date data on how many people have died or become infected so far in this season.
Those who are most at risk for serious illness are children under 5 years old and adults 85 years and older, and people who get sick should make sure to hydrate regularly.
How can we stop the spread?
The virus is very infectious: One infected person can infect between two and seven additional people, according to a modeling review from 2018. People who are sick should stay home while they are experiencing symptoms..
The virus spreads from the “fecal to oral” route, meaning that it moves from an infected person’s feces and is spread to another person.
There is no vaccine that can prevent cases of norovirus. The best course of action is to wash your hands really, really well, experts said. Hand sanitizer is not as effective against norovirus as hand washing, according to Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. If someone in your household gets sick, you’ll likely need to clean any surfaces they’ve touched with bleach, and make sure to wash any linens they’ve used.
Outbreaks are common in places like cruise ships, schools, nursing homes, and day cares. An elementary school in California had to close this month after a norovirus outbreak infected more than 120 students, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Since August, at least 516 outbreaks have been reported to the CDC, although there are likely many more that have gone unreported as only 14 states report outbreaks directly to the CDC.