by: Erica Bryant Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina's Health and Human Service's Department issued a warning this week about a norovirus outbreak spreading across the Carolinas and cases have been confirmed in our area.
Public health officials are worried about a new strain they say is hard to kill.
The Centers for Disease Control said 21 million Americans get the norovirus each year with classic stomach flu symptoms that include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
But this year, a new strain of the virus is so vicious doctors are calling it a superbug.
"Our bodies haven't encountered that before so the immune system is thrown off guard and it can make people a lot sicker, a lot quicker and we need to be cautious," said Dr. Ryan Shelton with the Mecklenburg Medical Group.
Shelton said while the flu is spread mostly in the air by sneezes and coughs, the norovirus is much more contagious.
It can still spread for days after symptoms are not present.
Hand sanitizer and washing hands with warm, soapy water can fight it.
It also can live on surfaces for weeks.
"Also, cleaning your home is important," Shelton said. "If you have someone sick with stomach infection, you need to clean everything with a bleach solution, regular soap and water is not strong enough."
The Department of Health urges the public to be aware of the symptoms and take precautions to avoid spreading the virus.
Confirmed outbreaks have been reported at long-term care facilities in the western part of the state.
"Dehydration is the biggest concern," Shelton said. "It can be potentially life threatening for those on certain medications, those who have a heart condition or who are very young or very old."
There is no vaccine for norovirus and that's why experts said the key is to prevent the spread, according to the CDC.
Because no one has immunity to the new strain, more Americans could become violently ill.
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