New stomach flu causes concerns

Experts say new strain of norovirus is highly contagious

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SAN ANTONIO - While outbreaks of the flu continue, there's now a new virus to worry about.

A new strain of norovirus, also known as the stomach flu, is now making the rounds.

The new strains is called the G114 Sydney strain.

It originated in Australia and now it's showing up in the U.S., putting health professionals on alert.

"When we get a new strain, then it tends to be a particularly bad year, so we're anticipating this is going to be a bad year," said Dr. David Gude, chief operating officer for Texas Med Clinic.

Gude said norovirus is often diagnosed as food poisoning. It causes cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and low-grade fever.

Although it usually lasts for a day or two, it's extremely contagious. A person can spread it before they even feel sick and for two weeks after they feel better.

"The virus will live for a long time on countertops and door handles -- that sort of thing," said Gude.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular cleansers won't kill the virus. They recommend bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

They claim that even hand sanitizer doesn't always work, nor will a quick hand washing.

To kill the virus, the CDC recommends washing hands thoroughly, by scrubbing with hot water and soap for about 30 seconds.

To keep the virus from spreading at home, dishes should be washed in a dishwasher because water doesn't get hot enough with hand washing. Laundry should also be done at a high temperature.

Gude said the good news is that if you do get sick, it's usually not serious.

"For most of us who are healthy, this is an unpleasant inconvenience. It's not going to be any kind of life-threatening problem," said Gude.

The main complication from norovirus is dehydration. If you do catch it, experts recommend drinking plenty of fluids.

According to Dr. Anil Mangla, chief epidemiologist at Metro Health, cases of gastrointestinal disease are being monitored by a national outbreak tracking system.

However, since norovirus is hard to diagnose, he said it's hard to tell where there are outbreaks.

More information about norovirus symptoms, prevention, transmission and treatment is available at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's website.

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