Stomach Virus Surges In Boston

BOSTON — The area is experiencing a surge in an extremely contagious stomach flu, called norovirus, including a new strain that comes with the usual symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Norovirus often strikes annually in late February and early March, so city health officials say they aren’t surprised that hospital visits by people with norovirus-like symptoms are up.

In December, for example, Boston emergency rooms were getting about 26 patients a day complaining of stomach flu, according to the Boston Public Health Commission; in the first two weeks of February, that number had increased to 45 patients daily.

There have also been institutional outbreaks of the illness at Emmanuel College, Simmons College and a facility run by Boston Health Care for the Homeless, commission officials said. In addition, about a dozen Fitchburg State College students were sent to a nearby hospital earlier this week after coming down with what is believed to be norovirus.

There is one notable difference in this year’s norovirus activity in the Boston region: Specimens of the virus from one of its institutional clusters were sent for testing to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, “and they have identified that we have a new variant of norovirus circulating,” said Dr. Anita Barry, director of the commission’s Infectious Disease Bureau.

Barry said the emergence of a new strain means that more people than usual are getting sick. Catching norovirus can sometimes provide immunity from contracting the same strain again, but when a new variant appears most people don’t have that natural protection, she said.

While the virus is showing elevated activity in Boston, it does seem to be waning, Barry added.

Norovirus is typically transmitted person-to-person through stool or vomit and its symptoms usually last 24 to 48 hours. The best ways to limit the spread of the illness are to wash your hands before eating and preparing food, after using the bathroom and after changing a child’s diaper.

“The unfortunate thing about norovirus is it takes very little of it for someone to get sick,” Barry said, “so it’s pretty easily transmitted unless you are really scrupulous about hygiene.”

There are no medicines that can treat norovirus or shorten the infection’s duration, so people sickened with the illness are typically advised simply to drink plenty of fluids and get extra rest.

Health officials recommend that food workers who contract norovirus stay out of work for three days after their gastrointestinal distress disappears, since the illness can still be contagious three days after symptoms subside.

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  • http://Yahoo donna ginsburg

    I heard alot of eople were sick yesterday.I finally got a good book to read by James Patterson.

  • JClev19

    Yet another example of why it is so important to wash your hands after using the bathroom. I still can’t believe how many people I see each day who do not do this simple act of prevention. Not only does not washing make one into an irresponsible disease vector, but it’s disgusting!

  • Aaron

    My wife and I caught a severe 24-hour flu bug over New Years visiting family in Ohio. I hope we weren’t the ones who brought it back to Boston!

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  • Student

    I was wondering what I had and now I know. It hit like a train. I couldn’t even lift my head off the bed without getting sick. I have never slept, nor been sick like this before for a 24 hours period. I started feeling better the next day but it took about 4 days. What makes it tough being a student is your Professor’s think you should come to class. This was my first missed day and the reply I got was, well, I also have a cold but I’m here.

  • Sarah

    I had this (I think) the first week of February. It took about 5 days to go away. It was terrible. I had thought it was food poisoining but now that I read this, maybe it was the norovirus. Hope it goes away quickly!

  • OM Hubbard

    Did this start on the West Coast? I was at a conference in SF in late January, and 3 people I knew came down with symptoms like these. We all thought we had food poisoning, but couldn’t find anything in common that we ate.

  • Margaret

    Our whole family has experienced 2 episodes of this “bug” and it is exhausting. The first round was terrible, the second, worse. It does take 5 days to recover! Am glad it seems to be decreasing.

  • Liz

    Is a “burning” sensation in the stomach a symptom of this particular bug? Our family had something similar two years ago and it felt like a small flame in the tummy.


    we went to a wedding in Orlando and the whole wedding party and guests were down for three days.It was the worst stomach flu I think I have ever had.

  • dborgea

    This nasty virus is also making its rounds in Western MA. We are in Longmeadow and this virus is thriving in the schools and tearing its way through family homes. We also have gone two rounds with this awful,stubborn bug!

  • Lee

    Why are people going to the Emergency Room for a stomach bug?

  • Mick

    Some people get so dehydrated that they require quarts of intravenous fluids. A friend who had this last week was hospitalized for three days.
    Dehydration can be serious. It can cause heart attacks.

  • gallant poacher

    Twelve of us from the group attending a memorial service at an elite former gentleman’s club in NJ (the guy was a lovely man, who had no one to spend money on) came down with norovrus from egg salad sandwiches. We each spent about 20 to 40 minutes schmoozing and nibbling, and, wow!

    • Dcaruso

      So basically at a gathering of “elite gentlemen,” no one could afford to hire a caterer with basic handwashing skills…or even a reminder sign about washing hands after wiping fecal matter?

  • Sandy

    Why are people are going to the emergency room for a stomach bug?

    This question had to have been asked by someone who HASN’T had it. I got it this weekend and within 3 hours of onset I was so dehydrated that I had NO saliva in my mouth, could not walk or stand without fainting, and could not stop the dry heaves. This one is NASTY in every way. 4 days later and still weak and nauseated.

  • Tammi Hartman

    Wonder if this is what I have been suffering with, now the 5th day. Started Mothers day, and finally tried bland food last night, which left me wondering why I had even tr ied. And to answer one of the comments, I too, have been having lots of acid, or burning. Had 101 temp first day but none since. Just praying to get better soon, and for all of you to also. BTW, we are in Arkansas.

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    This norovirus is quit harmful an easily acquired. So glad that I have a habit of washing hands every now and then. I appreciate that you have shared tips and advices to be follow.

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    Stomach flu is spreading its legs throughout the whole world. The best way to avoid ti to be neat and clean. Keeping distance from the people suffering from flu is also a good way to prevent it.

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    The symptoms of stomach flu are common such as vomiting and feeling good when stuck in the toilet for long hours which makes a person upset. Everything happens as a result of a viral infection.

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    While the virus is showing elevated activity in Boston, it does seem to be waning, Barry added.
    That’s true.
    Everyone must take care of it.

  • Steven Clark

    I guess it is all what you felt. some people are so sensetive that they do not care and if some people have to stay in toilet for sometime. they start vomiting.

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  • Bob

    Are you kidding this is waning. There are people all around me with this. I am just rolling off my death bed and on my third day. I haven’t had this for over 20 hears. Wow!!!

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  • tom valdez

    i was shitting my pants all week

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  • Ron Heart

    I was sick with the stomach flu and instead of waiting for a doctors appointment or wasting time and money in the ER. i just picked up the phone to talk to a doctor. They assisted me without costing me hundreds of dollars. Telemedicine has really developed over the years. It is so convenient and effective.

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