New strain of disease merits timeless advice


WALLA WALLA — You’re likely to get over it but in the meantime, stay close to the bathroom.

Norovirus, sometimes known as “winter vomiting disease” — and that name itself might be enough to make you queasy — is in the Walla Walla Valley.

It’s reasonable to believe this year’s local crop of the illness is the newest strain, “GII.4 Sydney,” first documented in Australia last March.

In the U.S., the Sydney strain has spread rapidly nationwide, causing an increasing number of outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, creating a statistically significant increase in the proportion of outbreaks, more than half by direct transmission and 20 percent food borne.

“We think we’re inundated with norovirus,” said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department this morning. “It’s pretty intense.”

Law does not require hospitals and physicians to report the illness to the health department, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, Crowder added. “We have a whole bunch of people with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”

Noroviruses are the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States, according to the CDC, which estimates that each year more than 20 million cases of acute gastroenteritis are caused by noroviruses.

That’s one in 15 of us, the CDC said. The virus causes more 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year in the U.S.

More typically, however, victims are laid low for 24 to 48 hours, then spring back to health pretty quickly, Crowder said. And once someone brings it home, it just runs through families.

Staying hydrated is of the utmost importance, the CDC said, especially when fluid is lost through vomiting and diarrhea.

Prevention tactics include a nearly-neurotic washing of the hands, avoiding congregate settings and not sharing food and drink with others, as sufferers might have the virus on their hands.

Wash bedding, towels and clothing that might be contaminated as quickly as possible and clean and disinfect surfaces, the CDC advises.

Still, people need to know norovirus can hang out in the atmosphere “quite a while,” just waiting to be inhaled, Crowder said – meaning the bug doesn’t even need direct exposure to help it do its dirty work.

Then there’s not much to be done, but make the bathroom your best friend.


Log in to comment