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Stomach bug got you? You're not the only one

WakeMed Children's Emergency Department reports that they've seen a spike in norovirus cases in the last few weeks.

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Has your family, like mine, been hit with the stomach bug? You're not alone.

WakeMed Children's Emergency Department reports that they've seen a spike in norovirus cases in the last few weeks. 

"We've had a huge influx in the last several weeks of vomiting and diarrhea symptoms," said Dr. Amy Weigand Griffin, medical director of WakeMed Children's Emergency Department.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the norovirus is the most common cause of "acute gastroenteritis" or what everybody I know calls the stomach bug in the United States. Each year, it causes 19 to 21 million illnesses and leads to 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations, the agency says.

Most cases happen between November and April. Infants and the elderly are at most risk for complications.

The tell tale signs are a sudden and violent onset of symptoms, which can be vomiting, diarrhea or, if you're really lucky, both. They last between 12 to 72 hours, WakeMed's Griffin tells me.

The virus is highly contagious and can be spread through fecal matter and orally, Griffin said. It's also airborne.

"If children have it and the parents are cleaning it up, they are more likely to get the virus," she said. But it might also be on that shopping cart last pushed by a person with the virus or on the table at the school cafeteria.

"It's everywhere," Griffin said.

So, what to do.

Wash your hands with soap and water, Griffin said. Don't rely on hand sanitizer to protect you from the virus, she added.

If you do catch it, stay at home and make sure everybody is washing their hands. Be sure to clean any surfaces that might be contaminated.

For kids, Griffin said Pedialyte is the best drink to get dehydrated kids back on track. The drink contains electrolytes and other ingredients that help replenish what kids lost while they were sick. Griffin recommends using a 10 ml syringe to feed an infant the solution. Infants would need 10 ml every five minutes or so. A toddler or young child should try to drink a half ounce to an ounce every five minutes, she said.

"If they start to keep the Pedialyte down, then they can advance their diet to solids," she said.

Juice isn't a good substitute for the rehydration solution, she said. It's too sugary and could actually make diarrhea worse.

Call the doctor if you start seeing few wet diapers or no tears when crying. A call to the doctor also is a good idea when kids are vomiting fluids persistently and not keeping anything down, she said. 

I asked Griffin if people with the virus should progress slowly with food, moving on to the famous BRAT diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast before returning to the normal routine, once they start feeling better. We always load up on salty crackers.

Griffin said it's probably not necessary. If you're recovering, you should avoid spicy, greasy and sweet foods, but Griffin said studies have found that the sooner you refeed your gut, especially with protein, the quicker you actually get better. 

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