The illnesses have been attributed to norovirus, often called "stomach flu," but unrelated to influenza. The virus becomes more prevalent in the late fall and winter. Norovirus infections are usually not serious and most people get better within a few days. People with norovirus generally experience vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms may include nausea, stomach cramping, fever, chills, aches and tiredness.
"Norovirus infection is a miserable experience, and can be serious if you become dehydrated," said Dr. Sharon Balter, a medical epidemiologist at the Health Department. "Thorough hand-washing with soap and warm water - especially before eating and after using the bathroom - is the best way to avoid it."
Because stomach viruses can spread quickly in group settings, school children and parents should be especially careful. So should people who visit or work in nursing homes or child care centers.
"If you get sick with diarrhea or vomiting, stay home so that you don't spread the infection to others," Balter said. "Keeping sick kids home from school or day care is especially important."
There are no specific treatments for stomach viruses; people typically recover on their own within a day or two. But anyone with diarrhea or vomiting, particularly young children, should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, the most worrisome consequence of stomach viruses. If you are concerned about becoming dehydrated, go to a health care provider or hospital immediately.
People can become sick with this stomach virus in several ways, including:
How to prevent stomach viruses:
For more information on noroviruses, please visit NYC.gov/html/doh/html/cd/cdnor.shtml