If you or a loved one have been attacked by a stomach virus in the past few weeks, you’re not alone.
Cases of norovirus, or the ‘stomach flu’, hit a 12-month high in February and are still wreaking havoc, particularly in schools.
At the same time, cases of Shigella bacterial infections are on the rise, and health officials are concerned about an antibiotic-resistant strain growing in the US.
The two bugs, which are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in American schools, have very similar symptoms, making it difficult to tell the difference.
But there are ways to tell the difference between the two:
Norovirus tends to start with a lot of vomiting and then progress to diarrhea, or sometimes both start at the same time. But shigella tends to be more diarrhea and not so much vomiting. You may have stomach cramps. Diarrhea caused by shigella tends to be more watery or bloody, doctors say, while diarrhea caused by norovirus tends to follow a bout of vomiting.
The graph above shows the number of reported shigella outbreaks this year (red line) and previously. The season got off to an early start but has since slowed down. Remained below pre-pandemic levels
This map shows the number of reported outbreaks by state. It was most common in Virginia, California, Ohio, and Michigan, and cases are still ongoing. Virginia schools advise parents to keep children home for 48 hours after symptoms resolve to help stop the spread of norovirus.
Dr. Marci Drees is the director of infection prevention for ChristianaCare in Delaware, and she regularly sees patients with these diseases.
When asked how to tell diseases apart, he said ABC6: ‘Norovirus tends to start with a lot of vomiting and then progress to diarrhea, or sometimes both start at the same time.
‘(But) shigella tends to be more diarrhea and not so much vomit. You may have stomach cramps.
Shigella diarrhea tends to be more watery or bloody, doctors say, while norovirus diarrhea tends to follow an episode of vomiting.
The two can also be differentiated by how long they last. Norovirus cases usually clear up in three days, but shigella tends to last four to seven days.
In severe cases, it can take weeks or months for the intestines of patients with the bacterial infection to return to normal.
Other differences include that patients with shigella are more likely to have a fever than those with norovirus.
Diseases can also attack in different types of year.
Norovirus is also known as the “stomach bug” because of its propensity to spike in the cold months of November through April, before falling off.
Shigella, on the other hand, tends to transmit at a steady rate throughout the year.
Norovirus causes up to 21 million cases in the United States each year, 109,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths, statistics suggest.
Cases have risen earlier than normal this year, the data suggests, reaching a peak of 30 outbreaks a week in early January.
But they have since declined. They remained below the levels recorded between 2012 and 2020 before the pandemic.
Virginia, California, Ohio and Michigan have faced the most norovirus outbreaks this year, data suggests.
Earlier this month, schools in Chesterfield, outside Richmond, Virginia, told parents to keep children home for an additional 48 hours after symptoms subsided, suggesting norovirus was behind it. of the illness.
Shigella, on the other hand, causes fewer illnesses each year than norovirus.
Surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that bacterial infection causes about half a million cases each year, leading to 5,400 hospitalizations and 38 deaths.
A “serious public health alert” was issued last month for cases of the superbug across the country that were becoming resistant to antibiotics, making them harder to treat.
About five percent of all cases now involve resistant strains, compared to none just six or seven years ago.
Doctors say that in most cases, the best treatment for sick children is getting plenty of rest and making sure they stay hydrated.
Some patients can also eat small amounts of bland foods, such as soup, rice, pasta, or bread.
Children will only need to see doctors if they start showing symptoms including bloody diarrhea, prolonged fever, severe stomach cramps, or dehydration.
In these cases, stool tests will be done to determine if an infection is caused by shigella or norovirus.
Because shigella is caused by bacteria, it can be treated with antibiotics.
But there is no similar treatment for norovirus, which is caused by a virus, and doctors focus on managing symptoms.
CDC Issues “Serious Public Health Alert” Over Nationwide Rise of Drug-Resistant Stomach Viruses
The United States faces a “serious public health threat” after a sharp increase in infections caused by an antibiotic-resistant stomach virus, authorities have warned.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that about 5 percent of shigella cases were now drug resistant, compared with none in 2015.
Approximately 450,000 patients contract shigella, the bacterium that causes shigellosis, each year, estimates suggest. Its main symptoms are diarrhea that is sometimes bloody, fever, stomach pain and feeling the need to have a bowel movement even when the intestines are empty.
Naeemah Logan, the CDC’s medical officer, said these “superbug” cases are a “serious threat to public health and we want to make sure providers are aware of the growing potential for antibiotics to fail.”
Most do not require antibiotics and recover within a week after a period of rest and fluids.
But antibiotics are offered to people who have weakened immune systems due to HIV or the chemotherapy they are receiving. It can help prevent complications and shorten the duration of the disease.
The rise in cases of the superbug shigella has been especially pronounced among gay and bisexual men, travelers, the homeless, and people living with HIV.