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New Stomach Bug: Sydney Strain of Norovirus Hits the U.S. And Spreads Around the World

Travelers Today       By    Lena Vazifdar

Updated: Jan 24, 2013 04:21 PM EST

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A new strain of norovirus has been spreading around the U.S.(Photo : Flickr)

A new stomach bug that is going around the world has hit the U.S. The Associated Press reported that since September there has been more than 140 outbreaks in the United States. The new strain of the bug is caused by a Sydney strain of norovirus.

The strain is getting people sick worldwide including Western Europe, Japan and other parts of the globe and was first identified in Australia, thus being called the GII.4 Sydney strain.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus and spreads easily in contained areas like schools, nursing homes and cruise ships. It is also sometimes mistaken for the stomach flu as symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea are similar.

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Researcher at the University of Cambridge in England said to the AP, "It can sweep through an environment very, very quickly. You can be feeling quite fine one minute and within several hours suffer continuous vomiting and diarrhea.

Fox News reported that Between September and December the Sydney strain of norovirus went up from 53 to 58 percent of norovirus outbreaks, according to the CDC.

A CDC report states, "In the United States, GII.4 Sydney has spread rapidly nationwide, causing an increasing number of outbreaks. During September-December 2012, a total of 141 (53%) of the 266 norovirus outbreaks reported to CaliciNet were caused by GII.4 Sydney."

The report also stated that the Sydney strain has been associated with higher rates of death and hospitalization during infection.

This current strain was first detected in Australia and new strains of norovirus typically come up every two to three years.

Dr. Jan Vinje who is the director of the CDC surveillance system for norovirus, CalicNet, said to Fox News, "New norovirus strains often lead to more outbreaks but not always."

The CDC says on its website that norovirus can be spread easily including:

  • "Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus (someone gets stool or vomit on their hands, then touches food or drink).
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth.
  • Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus (for example, when caring for someone with norovirus or sharing foods or eating utensils with them)."

People who have norovirus are contangious from when they start feeling sick and until at least 3 days after their sickness is over.

The best ways to protect oneself from norovirus is washing hands with soap and water often, rinsing fruits and vegetables, disinfecting surfaces,not preparing food or caring for someone when you are ill.

"After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, you can use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water," said the CDC.

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