New Norovirus Bug Lands in US from Australia, CDC Announce

First Posted: Jan 25, 2013 10:42 AM EST

It's contagious, nasty and has finally invaded U.S. shores. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that a new strain of the vomiting disease norovirus has reached the U.S. from Australia.

The virus, often called the "stomach flu," causes nausea, forceful vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Norovirus is highly contagious, and possesses the ability to be transferred through food or through the air. If people who prepare food don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, it's possible for them to transfer the virus to whoever eats the food.

The new strain accounted for 58 percent of outbreaks of norovirus nationally. Only last month, 220 people on the cruise ship, Queen Mary II, were stricken in the Caribbean. Because the virus is so contagious, it can quickly sweep through populations of people who live in close quarters--such as the conditions found in schools or cruise ships.

Every two or three years, a new norovirus strain evolves. The last one that showed up was in 2009. This new strain, dubbed the Sydney strain, has coincided with the spike in cases of influenza. This may perhaps explain the perception that this is a particularly bad flu season in the U.S.

It's unclear whether or not this strain is more likely to infect people than previous strains. However, any new strain that emerges has the potential to increase disease since people haven't yet been exposed to it, making them more susceptible, according to USA Today.

For those who have the virus, though, there is no cure. The infected just have to endure a couple of days of severe symptoms, and make sure to guard against dehydration. Currently, researchers are working on creating a vaccine for the norovirus, but it probably won't appear on the market for at least five to 10 more years.

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