Nasty stomach bug takes gut-wrenching toll on N.J., northeastern states

Nasty stomach bug takes gut-wrenching toll on N.J., northeastern states

In the northeastern United States, including New Jersey, a concerning uptick in cases of the notorious “stomach bug” virus, better known as norovirus, has been observed this winter, as per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since mid-December, more than 1 in 10 individuals experiencing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and overall gastrointestinal discomfort have tested positive for norovirus. The region’s rolling three-week average for positive norovirus tests now stands at 13.4%, marking the highest percentage among the four regions monitored by the CDC. This marks the third consecutive week where the rate has exceeded 13%.

Furthermore, norovirus cases have surged by over 16% nationally compared to previous years, with 428 reported outbreaks documented across 15 states reporting monthly data to the CDC since December, which typically signals the onset of the peak norovirus season.

Norovirus is renowned for its high contagiousness, easily spreading in crowded environments such as schools, daycares, and cruise ships. The CDC underscores the microscopic nature of the virus particles, noting that even a few particles can induce illness in others.

Prevention efforts recommended by the CDC include rigorous handwashing and strict adherence to hygiene practices, particularly in bathrooms and during food preparation. Hand sanitizer alone is insufficient for eradicating the virus.

Symptoms of norovirus can typically be managed at home with adequate rest and hydration, as there are no targeted medications for the virus, and antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. However, certain demographics, such as young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals, are at a heightened risk of developing severe illness.

According to CDC data spanning from 1971 to 2021, New Jersey has recorded 71 confirmed norovirus outbreaks, affecting over 2,200 individuals and leading to 17 hospitalizations, albeit with no reported fatalities during this period.

The recent surge in stomach virus cases prompted the closure of the Irving School in Highland Park for one day earlier this month due to a gastrointestinal outbreak, though it wasn’t specified whether norovirus was the primary culprit. The school underwent thorough cleaning during its temporary closure and resumed normal operations the following Monday.