A blood sample tests positive for Norovirus.

A blood sample tests positive for Norovirus. Credit: Getty Images/jarun011

Cases of norovirus, a highly contagious stomach bug that can leave patients doubled over in pain for days, have spiked nearly 40% since the middle of January in the northeast U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak, meanwhile, appears to be striking some pockets of New York worse than others, with some Long Island hospital systems reporting an uptick in cases while nearly 70 cases are being investigated in Madison County, an upstate college town, officials said.

The virus causes acute gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines and spreads through direct contact with a person who is infected, sharing food, eating food handled by them or touching the same surfaces, officials said.

The symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, dehydration and fever, usually end in about three days. It tends to circulate between November and April, according to the CDC.

Nationwide, 12.3% of norovirus tests submitted to the CDC were positive during a three week average for the week of Feb. 17, data shows. 

But in the Northeast, a region that includes New York, rates have hit 16.2%, up from 11.4% six weeks earlier, and are now at the highest levels in at least two years, CDC data shows. The levels on the Northeast are the highest in the country, the CDC said.

Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, said he'd seen an uptick in norovirus cases over the past three weeks.

“It tends to be young children and infants who get the most ill and require hospitalization for it because they can become dehydrated more easily,” Handel said. “But we've certainly seen teenagers and patients with chronic medical problems that have been admitted with it as well.”

An outbreak has been linked by local health officials to upstate Colgate University in Hamilton, where at least 15 students have reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness consistent with norovirus infection, according to the Madison County Department of Health

Two of those 15 students have tested positive for norovirus and 54 more suspected cases are under investigation, including students and other people living or working in Hamilton community, officials said.

The illness, which spreads in enclosed spaces such as schools, day care centers, nursing homes and cruise ships, is most detrimental in children under the age of 5 and in older adults.

“Anecdotally, there's been a lot of norovirus going around but I don't think it's horribly alarming,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health, who said frequent hand washing is the most important precaution people can take. “It'll pass. But it's incredibly annoying and makes people miserable when they get it.”

Cases of norovirus, a highly contagious stomach bug that can leave patients doubled over in pain for days, have spiked nearly 40% since the middle of January in the northeast U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak, meanwhile, appears to be striking some pockets of New York worse than others, with some Long Island hospital systems reporting an uptick in cases while nearly 70 cases are being investigated in Madison County, an upstate college town, officials said.

The virus causes acute gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines and spreads through direct contact with a person who is infected, sharing food, eating food handled by them or touching the same surfaces, officials said.

The symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, dehydration and fever, usually end in about three days. It tends to circulate between November and April, according to the CDC.

Nationwide, 12.3% of norovirus tests submitted to the CDC were positive during a three week average for the week of Feb. 17, data shows. 

But in the Northeast, a region that includes New York, rates have hit 16.2%, up from 11.4% six weeks earlier, and are now at the highest levels in at least two years, CDC data shows. The levels on the Northeast are the highest in the country, the CDC said.

Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, said he'd seen an uptick in norovirus cases over the past three weeks.

“It tends to be young children and infants who get the most ill and require hospitalization for it because they can become dehydrated more easily,” Handel said. “But we've certainly seen teenagers and patients with chronic medical problems that have been admitted with it as well.”

An outbreak has been linked by local health officials to upstate Colgate University in Hamilton, where at least 15 students have reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness consistent with norovirus infection, according to the Madison County Department of Health

Two of those 15 students have tested positive for norovirus and 54 more suspected cases are under investigation, including students and other people living or working in Hamilton community, officials said.

The illness, which spreads in enclosed spaces such as schools, day care centers, nursing homes and cruise ships, is most detrimental in children under the age of 5 and in older adults.

“Anecdotally, there's been a lot of norovirus going around but I don't think it's horribly alarming,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health, who said frequent hand washing is the most important precaution people can take. “It'll pass. But it's incredibly annoying and makes people miserable when they get it.”

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