2023-02-12| Trending

U.S. Records Spike in Positive Norovirus Cases Among Seasonal Spread

by Reed Slater
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During the middle of the cold season, the CDC posted norovirus trends that showed a dramatic spike in positive test results from labs across the U.S. According to the agency, over 16% of norovirus PCR tests demonstrated positive results on a centered three-week moving average.

Norovirus’ Prevalence and Effects

Every year, the U.S. records approximately 19 to 21 million norovirus cases, costing the country about $2 billion. Based on the CDC’s most recent trends, the burden of the highly contagious virus could be greater this year than ever before. 

Norovirus, commonly referred to as the stomach bug or stomach flu, spreads through direct contact with infected individuals, consuming infected food or liquid, or touching contaminated surfaces and then putting unwashed hands into the mouth. The virus can affect people of all ages with vomiting and diarrhea. 

About 900 people die yearly from the virus, most of whom are over 65 years old. Norovirus accounts for approximately 465,000 emergency department visits annually, mostly among young children. Of those, about 109,000 cases require hospitalization. 

Norovirus outbreaks are widespread in the U.S., with about 2,500 reported every year. Individuals can contract the virus at any point in the year, but the most common time is during the cold months between November and April, with January historically holding the highest rates of infection.

Related Article: The U.S. COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Ends in May, but FDA’s EUA Authority Remains

Treating and Preventing Norovirus

While there is no medicine dedicated to treating norovirus, the CDC recommends drinking plenty of water to replace liquids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization and an intravenous infusion to replace lost liquids. Signs of dehydration in young children include crying with few or no tears and interrupted or fussy sleep cycles. 

The CDC noted that antibiotics would not treat norovirus because they fight bacteria instead of viruses. 

Beyond ensuring the body is supplied with ample fluids after infection, the best way to deal with norovirus is to get ahead of it with preventative measures. Most of these measures include cleaning your body and surroundings thoroughly to eliminate norovirus particles. 

The CDC said hand sanitizer does not work well against the virus, though, and recommends thorough handwashing for at least 20 seconds. In addition to handwashing, the CDC recommends washing laundry thoroughly, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces your hands often come into contact with, like countertops and tables. 

With food a major source of contamination, it is crucial to handle and prepare food safely before consuming it. Noroviruses are relatively resistant to heat, so it is important to cook susceptible foods, like oysters and shellfish, to internal temperatures exceeding 145 degrees Fahrenheit. A recent multistate outbreak in December was linked to raw oysters harvested in Galveston, Texas. 

With norovirus season in full swing, it is essential to take precautionary measures to decrease the chances of contracting the highly contagious virus. With record numbers of positive test results from labs across the U.S., the country could face a heavy burden associated with norovirus this year. 

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