Doctors are sending out a warning that if you think you have the flu, it could actually be something much worse.
A new strain of the norovirus has the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sending out warnings about the potentially deadly virus. What is even more frightening is that common ways of avoiding this bug don't work.
There's no vaccination for this new strain of norovirus, which originated in Australia, but there are some ways to fight it.
Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, took his family on a cruise back in November. He said they all caught norovirus, which likely started with a meal of raw oysters.
The whole family is well now, but the virus takes a toll and is especially virulent in closed quarters like cruise ships and dormitories where people are in close contact.
"Norovirus is extremely contagious. Shaking hands is a great way to pass norovirus from one person to the next or touching surfaces or eating contaminated food," Slovis said.
The CDC said symptoms of norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea and stomach cramping.
Most people get better after a couple of days' rest and plenty of fluids, but norovirus can be serious or even deadly with the elderly, young children and people with compromised immune systems.
Handwashing with a quick rinse doesn't help prevent the spread of norovirus. Instead, wash your hands thoroughly and also wash down contaminated areas with a bleach-based solution.
There have been more than 140 cases reported across the United States so far, and Slovis said he is certain Vanderbilt has seen a few cases of norovirus but nothing close to an epidemic.
Slovis said a common way to transmit the virus is by shaking hands with someone who is infected. Therefore, many doctors at Vanderbilt opt to bump elbows with one another rather than shake hands.
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