It’s never a good sign when your Google search history includes terms such as “norovirus,” “stomach virus” and “how to kill germs.”  The bad news was that a stomach bug recently tore through my house, leaving behind a wake of dirty laundry and half-consumed cups of tea. The good news is that it was not the dreaded norovirus bug, but rather it was more likely a rotavirus, the norovirus' ill-mannered but less destructive cousin. 

Reading through the news today, I’m thinking that my family got lucky this time. The norovirus bug has been hammering some communities pretty hard. In Copenhagen, 63 people fell ill after eating at the uber-hip restaurant called Noma. In Florida, a Royal Caribbean ship sits docked after 108 of its passengers recently fell ill. And in Vermont, an entire school was closed for two days last week after 90 percent of its 85 students became sick. Norovirus has been identified as the cause in all cases.  

Here's a news clip about the situation in Vermont:

So what is a norovirus, and how does it compare to the standard "tummy bug?" Norovirus gets its name from the town of Norwalk, Ohio, where the first outbreak was identified in 1968. Like rotavirus and other types of gastrointestinal viruses, norovirus causes vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea and can lead to dehydration in extreme cases. It affects all ages, and can be spread via person-to-person contact. But unlike other viruses, norovirus lives on surfaces for several days and can spread via airborne particles. That's what makes the norovirus so destructive and difficult to eradicate.

But I can speak from experience when I tell you that when you're sick, it really doesn't matter what the virus is called that's attacking you. You just want it to stop. And the treatment is the same regardless of which invader is the cause — lots of rest, sips of clear liquids, and nibbles of crackers until you feel better. Hopefully, that will be in 24-48 hours.  

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