Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stomach Virus Spreads; Lack of a Treatment Means Most Patients Get No Test; Anti-Nausea Drugs or Intravenous Fluids Are Given to Help with Dehydration

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stomach Virus Spreads; Lack of a Treatment Means Most Patients Get No Test; Anti-Nausea Drugs or Intravenous Fluids Are Given to Help with Dehydration

Article excerpt

An outbreak of stomach viruses in St. Louis has joined the flu circulating this winter to crowd doctors waiting rooms and keep people home from work and school.

The gastrointestinal illnesses can cause cramping, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. A new strain of norovirus identified last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is thought to be the cause of most of the outbreaks nationwide this winter. Noroviruses are the most common cause of swelling in the stomach and intestines, infecting one in 15 Americans each year. The illness is commonly but mistakenly called the stomach flu, but influenza is a respiratory virus. The symptoms can also be mistaken for food poisoning.

Like the flu, noroviruses typically peak in January and February, when people spend more time indoors spreading germs.

Absences have not been higher than average for this time of year, a Parkway School District spokeswoman said.

Dr. Ken Haller of Cardinal Glennon Childrens Medical Center also said the number of illnesses this year has been typical. Because no treatment is available for the viruses, which are not required to be reported to state or federal health officials, most patients do not get tested for the disease. They are typically given anti-nausea drugs or intravenous fluids to help with dehydration.

Most people recover from noroviruses within one to two days. As with other illnesses, the youngest and oldest in the population are more at risk for severe infections. The viruses are thought to cause 800 deaths each year in the U.S.

Noroviruses are carried in the vomit and stool of people who are infected. The virus is spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or food. The virus is contagious from the onset of symptoms and at least three days afterward.

A fever can be a sign that the body is trying to fight off a virus but is not necessarily worrisome, Haller said. …

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