Watch out for the norovirus bug this winter (2012)

Norovirus patients reach highest since 2006
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Patients suffering from infectious gastroenteritis have dramatically increased this year at a rate close to that in 2006, when it was the highest in the past decade, according to the health ministry.

The main cause of the infections are noroviruses, which normally peak toward the end of the year. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Tuesday asked local governments across the country to urge residents to take preventative measures against the disease such as washing hands regularly and cleaning cookware thoroughly.

According to the ministry and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the average number of confirmed patients at about 3,000 hospitals and clinics with pediatrics departments nationwide was 11.39 per week from Nov. 12 to 18.

About 60 percent of patients are infants and children aged 5 and under, according to the ministry.

The figure marked the fifth consecutive week of increase and was 2.4 times greater than that during the same period one year earlier.

With 22.42 patients per hospital in Miyazaki Prefecture and 19.21 in Osaka Prefecture, the disease is mainly concentrated in western Japan, though the epidemic is generally spreading nationwide.

(Nov. 29, 2012)


Excerpted below from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention:

Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up.

Anyone can be infected with norovirus and get sick. Also, you can have norovirus illness many times in your life. Norovirus illness can be serious, especially for young children and older adults…”

“Many Names, Same Symptoms
You may hear norovirus illness called “food poisoning” or “stomach flu.” It is true that food poisoning can be caused by noroviruses. But, other germs and chemicals can also cause food poisoning. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.
Symptoms of norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea, and stomach cramping.
Other, less common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and general sense of fatigue.
Norovirus illness is usually not serious. Most people get better in 1­ to 2 days. But, norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions; it can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.
You may get dehydrated if you are not able to drink enough liquids to replace the fluids lost from throwing up or having diarrhea many times a day. Symptoms of dehydration include a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. Children who are dehydrated may also cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.
The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids. Oral rehydration fluids are the most helpful for severe dehydration. But other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. However, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals that are lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.
If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, contact your doctor. For more information on norovirus and dehydration, see norovirus treatment.”

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