Stomach virus going around, local officials warn

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Friday, December 31, 2010
— The vomiting lasts about 12 hours.

Then the diarrhea kicks in for two or three days.

And by that time, you’ve likely passed on the fun to someone else in your household.

Health officials say that pattern has been repeated throughout Rock County the last few weeks as a viral gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, goes around.

Urgent Care at Mercy Health Mall in Janesville sees about 75 people a day, and for the last three to four weeks, at least 10 people a day have come in with stomach flu symptoms, said Dr. Catherine Onsrud, a nurse practitioner.

At Mercy’s emergency room, nine to 10 cases of the stomach flu came in Wednesday.

Most people seeking medical attention have been throwing up every two hours for about 12 hours before having diarrhea for two to three days, along with abdominal cramps and generally feeling miserable, Onsrud said.

The stomach flu is different from the seasonal flu, which is respiratory and preventable with the seasonal vaccine. Symptoms of the seasonal flu include a fever, chills, sore throat, runny nose, cough and fatigue.

The stomach virus can spread through households quickly, and doctors who see a patient with the stomach flu are likely to see one of the patient’s family members two to three days later.

“If you get it in your family, it’s going to be hard to prevent it from anybody else getting it,” Onsrud said.

By the time symptoms arrive, the person already has exposed everyone for a couple days.

Not everyone needs to go to the doctor, however.

“If they are able to tolerate it, it’s better to stay at home,” Onsrud said.

People who get dizzy, weak, have intense abdominal pain or blood in their vomit or stool should seek medcial attention, she said.

Patients seeking medical care have been treated with IV fluids and anti-nausea medication, she said.

Doctors recommend patients stay on a clear liquid diet for the first 24 hours after vomiting, then go to the BRAT—bananas, rice, applesauce and toast—diet for the next 24 hours, she said. After that, patients can eat whatever they want.

Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated helps protect your body from the flu, officials say, and of course, good hand washing is important, too.

The stomach flu usually circulates more in spring and fall, Onsrud said.

The good news is that cases of the seasonal flu have been very low in the region and statewide, health officials say.

Urgent Care has seen only about three cases of seasonal flu, compared to 300 to 500 at this time last year, Onsrud said.

That could be because of the number of vaccinations given or because the flu just isn’t yet here, Rock County Health Officer Karen Cain said.

“We still have a lot of winter to go,” she said. “It might peak in March.”

Last updated: 3:42 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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