A new strain of Norovirus is causing intestinal illnesses around the U.S.

There is a new strain of virus causing intestinal illness outbreaks across the United States. The CDC confirmed that the Norovirus is spreading around the country. The Center for Disease Control also reported a rise in outbreak of sickness among people who drink raw milk. This information was released on the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report the Jan 25th issue.

This new strain of virus was first identified in Australia last year during the month of March. By the end of that year it had spread to the U.S. During the last four months of the year 2012, 266 different outbreaks of Norovirus were identified. Of that number 141 were caused by the Australian strains and from that point the outbreaks caused by that strain rose from 19% to 58%.

In most cases the Norovirus sickness is transmitted by food poisoning. That said it is a contagious virus too and it can still be transmitted by person to person contact, by touching an infected object or even water. It is usually during the winter that outbreaks of that virus are recorded.

A strain of norovirus was involved in a cruise ship outbreak
Jan Vinje, the head of National Calicivirus Laboratory said that it was not the newer strain of Norovirus that infected 300 children at the middle school of Arkansas. This strain is actually the same as the one found on the Queen Mary 2 luxury ship during the last christmas sailing.

Because there is a new strain, it may be difficult to know if more outbreaks are occurring and it may take several more month to find out if more people are getting sick, said Aaron Hall, an epidemiologist at CDC. He added that every few years new strains of norovirus emerge and that usually reflects in the form of increased disease activity. He said it is the CDC’s wish to let the population know about the existence of this threat but the most important things is that people take the necessary precautionary measures.

These are the strategies he suggested to prevent infection

  • Hands need to be washed as often as possible
  • Surfaces need to be disinfected
  • One needs to avoid preparing food when sick
  • It is not advisable to keep hands close to the face. People should avoid it.

Interestingly, during the year 2009 and 2010, a separate report on outbreaks related to food-borne diseases rather showed a decline in the spread of norovirus. But Hannah Gould who is also an epidemiologist working at the CDC said it is the new way of reporting that gave this impression of a drop in cases, In reality a lot of Norovirus cases were left out.

Between 2009 and 2010, egg was recorded to cause more illness than any other food. The largest number of outbreaks were also believed to have been cause by beef, fish, poultry and dairy products.

Gould said that by simply keeping certain good habits, food-borne illnesses can easily be prevented. For example people should cook their food thoroughly in order to kill all the potential pathogens in it. Hopefully it won’t take long for the new outbreak to go away.