Gastrointestinal symptoms?  It may not be covid, but it could be norovirus.

As Covid-19 cases continue to decline in the United States, cases of another virus are rebounding to pre-pandemic levels.

Outbreaks of norovirus, the virus responsible for the dreaded stomach flu, have been on the rise since January, according to the Department of Health. disaster control and prevention centers.

From August 2021 to early last month, the CDC reported 448 Norovirus outbreak. During the same period the previous year, only 78 were reported.

Since early January, the number of weekly outbreaks has risen from less than 10 to more than 50. Data is based on state health department reports from Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

There are no data to suggest that the norovirus outbreak is in any way associated with the omicron variant of MERS-CoV.

But it is possible that lifting Covid restrictions could help the virus spread. Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through surfaces.

Robert Atmar, MD, professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said he suspects the outbreak’s rise may be a reflection of national COVID mitigation strategies.

A mask, for example, is no longer mandatory in most parts of the country. Although norovirus is not spread by respiratory droplets, the increase in cases could reflect a decline in overall infection control.

The spread of Norovirus is particularly troublesome, as it can spread billions Norovirus particles On surfaces and through contaminated food or water. It only takes a few of these particles to make someone sick.

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“The concentration of virus in stool samples is very high, so it doesn’t take a lot of microscopic contamination to infect people,” Atmar said.

Outbreaks tend to be more common in areas where people congregate in close proximity, such as cruise ships or day care centers.

The best way to avoid norovirus, he said, is traditional hand hygiene. In other words, wash your hands vigorously with soap and water for 20 seconds after using the toilet and before preparing food.

He added that when it comes to cleaning surfaces, a diluted bleach solution is the best solution for disinfecting affected areas.

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