A new stomach flu virus, not related to influenza, has been identified in the United States. First detected in March 2012 in Sydney, Australia as GII.4 Sidney, is being called a superbug. Researchers believe this is a new strain of the highly-contagious norovirus that strikes often at this time of the year and to which no one has immunity. The Centers for Disease Control predicts millions of people will come into contact with the virus and up to 50 percent of the population will become ill from it.
Calling it a superbug is not an understatement. It is extremely contagious and very easy to catch. A person can become ill within a half hour of coming into contact with it. And if you get it once, it does not mean that you will not get it again. People at high risk for contracting this virus are children, the elderly and people who are immunocompromised.
Here are some quick facts about how this virus compares to the flu virus:
- The flu virus lives on hard surfaces for about two to four hours. This norovirus will live on hard surfaces for weeks and still remain infectious.
- Handwashing and hand sanitizers will disinfect the flu germ off your hands. Hand sanitizers are ineffective against the GII.4. Only hand washing will disinfect the norovirus off your hands.
- Detergents and disinfectants will disinfect surfaces of flu germs. This superbug can only be disinfected with bleach. Use a bleach concentration of 5 to 25 tablespoons of bleach to gallon of water to clean counter tops and hard surfaces including door knobs and handrails.
The norovirus comes on very suddenly and you become violently sick the first two to three days of the illness. Symptoms of the norovirus include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. If you do come down with virus, try to drink fluids to stay hydrated. If you are ill, do not prepare food for others or care for other people.
This virus can harbor inside your body for weeks even before you come down with symptoms. It lives in a person’s stool before symptoms appear and stays infectious in the stool for up to two weeks after the symptoms subside. When handling soiled clothing wear disposable gloves and then throw them out. Immediately wash any soiled clothing and bed linens on the longest machine cycle.
What can we do to prevent from getting this super bug? Keep washing your hands with soap and water especially before eating and handling food. Make it good practice to wash your hands after using the bathroom. Be aware that the virus can be transferred from a toilet seat to another person. Thoroughly cook oysters and shellfish as norovirus can survive temperatures as high as 140°F. Try to stay away from people who may be sick. If you think a food is contaminated with the superbug – throw it out.
There is no vaccine for this norovirus. Call your physician and get his/her advice if you come down with the superbug.
Courtesy of Kaytie Olshefski, RNC, BS, nursing coordinator of Adult Senior Communities in Monroe Township, on behalf of Saint Peter’s University Hospital. To find a doctor affiliated with Saint Peter’s, visit www.SaintPetersHCS.com/findaphysician/