Rest, patience only way to battle norovirus

Parents are taking extra precautions to keep norovirus away from their children.
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Even the flu shot can't protect you from a new nasty gastrointestinal virus that's hitting Indiana.

The norovirus can far outlast most other bugs in its ability to pass on to others long after sick people feel better.

The fever, the feeling and the funk has those who have had the norovirus say they were "almost delirious," sweating, and vomiting. College student Matthew Richter took pictures to prove it. He was one of thousands around the country likely hit by a new norovirus first seen last year in Australia.

It is just one of several illnesses making their way around - and the flu shot can't protect you from catching it.

"It spreads very easily. Some of the problems are you can start spreading it even before you know you are sick and spread it a week or so, even after the illness resolves," said Dr. Robert Blankenship at St. Vincent Hospital in Fishers.

The virus can reportedly survive on some surfaces up to two weeks. An hand sanitizer may do little to help.

Blankenship says wash your hands for about 30 seconds, that's about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday one-and-a-half times. Also, wash dishes in the dishwasher. You need water good and hot to kill the virus on plates and utensils.

"If you are doing laundry of someone who has had it and you don't get the water temperature hot enough, then you can get it," Blankenship said. "Even flushing the toilet, particles can come up and infect you. It only takes 16 of these viral particles to get sick which is a very minute amount."

Richter said he was eventually able to get over the virus.

"Finally, I was able to start eating crackers and tried to keep fluids in me. Nothing really seemed to help. I just had to work through it. Making a lot of calls home definitely to ask my parents what to do," he said.

Doctors say the "BRAT" diet - bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast - can help you best recover from a bout with norovirus.

More on the BRAT diet

Parents take precautions

There is no break in this severe flu season. Just when it looks as if the worst of the influenza outbreak is behind us, kids, parents and grandparents are getting hit with the "stomach flu" - better known as norovirus.

If you haven't had it yet, there is a good chance you know someone who has and you should know how not to get it.

Eyewitness News caught up with Jean Crane at the Children's Museum. Her kids are finally healthy. Everyone's been sick twice. She calls it the worst winter ever.

"Fever, missing school, throwing up. Since I have four kids, they would get it in succession," she said with a sigh.

The emergency room at St. Francis Health is crowded with patients suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and other typical symptoms and side effects of the latest norovirus.

Like the common cold, the only cure is time, and the body's own immune system. We had to hunt for an empty treatment room to speak with Dr Howard Levitian.

"For some people coming in here sick or dehydrated, we're giving them fluids. We are giving them medicine to stop the vomiting and make them feel better," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control says this new strain of virus is extremely contagious and there's no vaccine. The best protection is every mother's advice.

"Wash your hands. Wash your hands as much as you can," Dr. Levitian explained. "The physical act of washing your hands reduces the amount of the viral count, the amount of virus on your hands."

It's all about that viral count. The typical norovirus, according to the CDC, needs 41 microscopic particles to make you sick. But this strain is so powerful it needs less than half, only 18 invisible specks of the virus to make you miserable and feeling wiped out.

Since the virus sickened her two small children, then the entire family, Amber Siebert and her mom have become hand washing fanatics.

"Hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes more often. You think twice when you are touching stuff when you are out," said Tina Pinkston.

Hospitals and other public buildings are sanitizing everything people touch. The Children's Museum cleans handrails, elevator buttons and other surfaces during the day and all the toys at night, making the next day safer and more for kids and less scary for parents.

Related links
CDC norovirus information
Emergence of New Norovirus Strain
Norovirus Outbreak Management and Disease Prevention Guidelines