GI symptoms? It’s probably not Covid, but it could be Norovirus.

As Covid-19 cases continue to fall in the United States, cases of another virus are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Outbreaks of the norovirus, the pathogen responsible for the dreaded stomach flu, have been increasing since January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From August 2021 through early last month, the CDC reported 448 norovirus outbreaks. Only 78 were reported in the same period last year.

Since early January, the number of weekly outbreaks has increased from fewer than 10 to more than 50. Data is based on reports from state health departments in Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

There is no data to suggest that the norovirus outbreaks are linked in any way to the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

However, it is possible that the lifting of Covid restrictions will help the virus spread. Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, is highly contagious and spread from person to person via surfaces.

dr Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said he suspects the increase in outbreaks may be a reflection of relaxed Covid containment strategies across the country.

In most areas of the country, for example, masks are no longer required. And while norovirus isn’t transmitted by airborne infection, the rise in cases may reflect a general relaxation of infection control.

The spread of norovirus is particularly troublesome because it is possible to spread billions of them microscopic norovirus particles on surfaces and through contaminated food or water. It only takes a few of these particles to make someone sick.

“The virus concentration in stool samples is quite high, so it doesn’t take a lot of microscopic contamination to infect people,” Atmar said.

Outbreaks tend to be more common in areas where people congregate in close quarters, such as B. on cruise ships or in day-care centers.

The best way to avoid norovirus is good old-fashioned hand hygiene, he said. That means washing your hands vigorously with soap and water for about 20 seconds after using the bathroom and before preparing food.

When it comes to cleaning surfaces, a diluted bleach solution works best to decontaminate affected areas, he added.

follow NBC HEALTH at Twitter & Facebook. GI symptoms? It’s probably not Covid, but it could be Norovirus.

Caroline Bleakley

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