BALTIMORE (WJZ) — We’re still coping with flu season but now there’s another outbreak of a highly contagious illness. A dangerous strain of norovirus is spreading fast.
Meghan McCorkell has the warning from doctors.
Doctors are seeing more cases of norovirus come in and they say this year’s strain is particularly aggressive.
We’re in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons.
“You’re just so weak and every part of your body hurts and aches,” said flu patient Joe Gleba.
Another illness is spreading fast. More than 140 outbreaks of a dangerous new strain of norovirus have now been reported in the U.S.
“It’s very contagious. There are multiple epidemics of it. Other than cleaning the areas, there’s not a whole lot people can do about it,” said Dr. Gary Simon, George Washington University Hospital.
The virus attacks the stomach and intestines.
Dr. Marc Leavey of Mercy Medical Center has already seen severe cases here in Maryland.
“Patients are coming in with vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration. Older and younger. Many of them are getting so sick, we’ve had to put them in the hospital,” Leavey said.
With the flu so widespread, it’s possible for patients to contract both the flu and norovirus.
“I’d hate to be the person who got it, but you’d be a sick cookie,” Leavey said.
According to the CDC, norovirus sickens 21 million Americans each year. Of those, 70,000 need hospitalization and as many as 800 people die.
The bad news about this strain is that hand sanitizer may not save you. Doctors say the only real defense is soap and water.
“You can use the hand sanitizer to augment, but sanitizer alone just won’t do it,” Leavey said.
This is the height of the season for norovirus and the number of cases is expected to rise.
Norovirus has a very sudden onset and usually lasts about two to three days in an otherwise healthy person.
Doctors warn that even after you’ve recovered, you can still transmit norovirus for up to two weeks.