Norovirus-related illnesses on the rise in California

Norovirus-related illnesses on the rise in California

Norovirus, the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in the United States, has already infected hundreds of people in many states across the nation, including California, the Golden State’s Department of Public Health warned.

California health officials confirmed that norovirus-related illnesses were occurring in the state but no cases were reported in Humboldt County.

Since October 1, state health officials have confirmed 32 outbreaks of norovirus and they believe that the number of patients affected could be in the hundreds, exceeding the number reported last year by this time.

Researchers with the Minnesota Department of Health 9MDH) have found a new strain of the virus, which can increase infections by 50 per cent this year. Health officials said the new strain, dubbed GII.17 Kawasaki, is the same strain that caused numerous illnesses in Asia in winter 2014 before arriving in the United States.

That news comes just as the peak season for outbreaks of the virus approaches, and it means that even if a person has had norovirus in the past, they won't have antibodies to protect them from this particular strain of the virus.

Amy Saupe, a food-borne disease epidemiologist at the MDH, said, “Every few years, a new strain of norovirus emerges and causes many illnesses. We don’t know yet if this new strain will lead to an increase in the number of outbreaks reported, but it could.”

Public health officials have given people another reminder to wash their hands properly; saying washing hands and handling food properly could significantly limit the impact.

Norovirus infection is characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, lethargy, muscle aches, headaches and low-grade fever.

LA Times reported that, already, the state has confirmed 32 outbreaks since Oct. 1 — far more than the nine cases reported last year at this time — and health officials are urging Californians to wash their hands frequently to guard against infection. Caused by the highly contagious pathogen known as norovirus, the illness spreads rapidly in closed and crowded environments, such as hospitals, nursing homes, day-care centers, schools, cruise ships and restaurants.

It typically causes abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting — conditions that can be very serious for young children and older adults.

Times-Standard report said, public health officials gave Californians another reminder to wash their hands this week. An increase in illness caused by the norovirus, the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States, has occurred in California, but no cases have been reported in Humboldt County, state Department of Public Health officials said Wednesday.

The best defense, state Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said, is a thorough handwashing.

According to the CBS News, the agency said the new strain, called GII.17 Kawasaki, is the same one that caused many illnesses in Asia last winter before arriving in the U.S.
That news comes just as the peak season for outbreaks of the virus approaches, and it means that even if a person has had norovirus in the past, they won't have antibodies to protect them from this particular strain of the virus.

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