It's commonly known as the Winter Vomiting Virus. Never heard of it? Well, familiarize yourself because it's here. It's also the biggest thing to plague cruise ships. Food poisoning, bah!
The viruses are transmitted by fecally-contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. Noroviruses are the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, and affect people of all ages.
Norovirus infection is characterized by nausea, forceful vomiting, watery diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and in some cases, loss of taste. General lethargy, weakness, muscle aches, headache, coughs, and low-grade fever may occur. The disease is usually self-limiting, and severe illness is rare. A small number of people die, mostly the very young, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.
So why are the two viruses tearing through like a pandemic leaving make-shift parking lot emergency rooms and death in it's wake?
Complacency: people simply didn't get their shots. I blame two people on this one. My doctor told me that we shouldn't get our shots in October, but wait until later because the flu usually breaks out in January. How many people adhere to this? Well, this year the influenza breakout occurred earlier (oops), but we were covered. I still insist we get our shots before sickness outbreaks.
Norovirus? People don't wash their hands. Period. I have watched someone not wearing gloves in a restaurant wipe their nose, then handle food. I walked out and called the health department.
Restrooms: How many people barely rinse their hands under a trickle of water, too busy admiring themselves in the mirror? It makes me ill.
My hands are so dry they hurt to bend my fingers, but I'm a chronic hand-washer. We keep Purell in my purse, our backpacks, I Lysol doorknobs and anything people touch often. When I go to the grocery and they have those little wipes for the buggies? I bypass them and pour sanitizer from my purse to my hand and then wipe the buggy down. Then I wash my hands when I get home.
I don't shake hands either. Sorry, but I have a child that is highly susceptible and refuse to risk his health. We try not to eat out or go to too many places in winter because I don't need a sick family!
And I certainly don't want to be a statistic on the news.
The vaccines are running low because people waited too long and drug companies didn't produce based on the old supply-and-demand theory. Tamiflu, the cure-all drug of choice is running low as well because they were unprepared for this outbreak. Many people will have to ride it out without help and that is how many people are dying.
Take heed and do the right thing. Keep your kids home if they are sick, stay home if you are sick, and for Heaven's sake WASH YOUR HANDS!!