SAN ANTONIO – If your family has recently been hit by a stomach bug, it may be the highly contagious norovirus, which is making unusual rounds this spring.
“It causes symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, sometimes fever. It comes on very quickly, but it also goes away quite quickly,” said Dr. Robert Sanders, Associate Medical Director from University Health’s Pedi Express clinic downtown.
Dr. Sanders has seen a significant increase in norovirus cases over the past two months.
The virus can be observed all year round, but it generally increases in winter. Recent lab results from University Hospital showed the virus increased in April and early May.
“It’s very common to see outbreaks in crowded places: schools, daycares — you’ve heard of cruise ships having these outbreaks,” Sanders said.
Parents told KSAT that it’s pretty common in daycares.
Local school districts do not track absences based on specific illnesses, but have reported various things anecdotally:
San Antonio ISD and South San ISD reported regular absence numbers due to stomach-related illnesses.
Northside ISD has reported student and staff absences due to stomach issues.
The North East ISD has reported a higher number of absent primary school students with gastrointestinal symptoms, but the cases noted appear to be decreasing.
The chartered public district Jubilee Academies reported that there were 37 students and 25 staff with gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. A staff member with confirmed norovirus was hospitalized last week. A student with confirmed norovirus is hospitalized.
Norovirus is difficult to control once it is in circulation because it cannot be removed with alcohol-based cleaners.
Hand sanitizer won’t work well, so Sanders said washing your hands frequently with soap and water is crucial.
If your family ends up with norovirus, it’s important to stay hydrated.
“Small amounts of fluids more frequently than you would usually give them. For babies, instead of a 6 ounce bottle of formula, change it to maybe Pedialyte and give them an ounce, then maybe 20 minutes later give them another ounce,” a Sanders said.
Make sure you know when it’s time to go to the doctor.
“If the vomiting persists and they’re not able to retain fluids and there are signs of dehydration, we want to see them,” Sanders said. “If their mouth is dry – they don’t produce saliva or tears – those are problems if they don’t urinate regularly.”
Sanders said babies should have wet diapers at least every 8 to 10 hours. Older children should have lighter urine, not dark yellow or brown.
It also reminds parents of a worldwide epidemic of childhood hepatitis.
“Hepatitis A and norovirus cause very similar symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain,” Sanders said.
A big difference is that norovirus is short-lived, lasting only two to three days.
“Hepatitis is something that will last longer and have more severe symptoms, and the last thing is you might see yellowing of the eyes or skin,” Sanders explained.
This yellowing is called jaundice and signals liver problems, so if you see it, get to the doctor right away.
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