The worst flu season in years is giving way to another highly contagious infection. It is a new strain of the norovirus, and so far, thousands of people across the country, including hundreds in our area, have been sickened.
This new strain of norovirus is sometimes called "stomach flu," but doctors say it's really a respiratory infection. Victims suffer severe diarrhea and vomiting with symptoms that could last up to three days.
It happened to Djana and Noah Morris of Northwest D.C. The mother and son are finally on the mend after a bout of the norovirus last week.
Djana says she thought it was food poisoning, but found out otherwise when the infection landed her in emergency room on the first night.
"There was just nausea, vomiting," she says. "It went on for about 12 hours and I wound up dehydrated."
Two days later, 13-year-old Noah got sick too.
"My stomach was bubbling a lot," he says. "I threw up a couple of times and I was just in the bed, my stomach really hurt."
What the Morrises had is what doctors say is a new strain of a highly contagious norovirus. It is called the Sydney strain because it started in Australia and has caused outbreaks around world. It spreads easily through direct contact at work, school, nursing homes or other enclosed areas.
Djana thinks that is how she got it.
"I'm a real estate agent, I'm shaking hands all day, and it's so easy to transmit," Djana says.
Symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, chills, body ache and fatigue. The symptoms can show up suddenly from one to three days after exposure.
To avoid infection, doctors say wash your hands frequently to stop the spread of the virus. Wash fruit and vegetables carefully and disinfect areas when someone does get sick.
If you do come down with the stomach flu, doctors say drink plenty of liquids.
Young children and elderly adults have the highest risk for severe illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is too early to know if this new strain of norovirus will lead to more outbreaks.