Lena H. Sun
February 29, 2012
If it seems as though everyone you know has been sick or has a child who is vomiting or has diarrhea (or both), that’s probably because of an increase in the number of acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in the region the past several weeks.
… Maryland health officials said that so far, the overall number of outbreaks in that state is comparable with recent years, but since January and February are peak times for the nasty and highly contagious bug, they are asking residents to take simple precautions, like washing their hands, to avoid infection.
The most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines, is a virus called norovirus. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, a low-grade fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and fatigue.
During peak season, outbreaks are common because the illness is easily spread, person-to-person, through contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces. People with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days — and perhaps as long as two weeks — after recovery, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.