Viral gastroenteritis, commonly known as stomach flu, is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Per the CDC, stomach virus cases have been rising from August 2022 to January 2023.
The CDC reported that 225 norovirus outbreaks had been reported from August 2022 to January 2023, which is approximately 30% higher than the year before at 172 outbreaks. According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), outbreaks do not refer to the number of people infected with the virus but rather an unexpected and immediate hike in a particular disease. It is usually prevalent in a specific geographic region.
Per the CDC, norovirus generally produces 19 and 21 million illnesses resulting in diarrhea and vomiting, 109,000 hospitalizations, and around 900 deaths. It also causes 465,000 emergency visits, typically in children. Norovirus is vulnerable in children and elders, causing approximately one million pediatric medical care visits annually.
Although norovirus cases are heightening in the U.S., the numbers are not concerning compared to reports from 2012 to 2020. With the oncoming COVID-19, many diseases — including norovirus — were comparably lower. The rates have just returned to normal to their pre-pandemic period. In the U.S., norovirus outbreaks are most common from November to April. It can spread through direct contact, such as sharing food or utensils.
Symptoms and treatment
Stomach flu is a common illness that can bring many symptoms, from diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and loss of appetite, to sometimes even headaches and aching limbs. For most people, stomach flu goes away on its own with time. It can be present for a week, depending on the person. If you’ve caught the stomach flu and experienced mild symptoms, stay home and rest until you feel better.
It is important to stay hydrated by drink fluids to make up for fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea. You can intake soft and plain foods such as soup, rice, and bread. There are also anti-vomiting and antidiarrhoeal medications if needed.
Although seeking a medical professional is uncommon, if you feel extremely sick and have these symptoms, you should always contact professional help:
- Extreme dehydration and losing consciousness
- Bloody diarrhea
- Severe vomiting and unable to contain any fluids
- Have a high fever over 100.4F
Since stomach flu is easily spreadable, it is important to wash your hands and stay away from others until you feel better. It is advised that you stay home for at least 48 hours after all of your symptoms have disappeared.