Health officials see spike in stomach virus cases as flu epidemic continues

The flu epidemic is spreading across the United States, but it’s not just the flu we have to worry about. Doctors are also seeing more cases of the rotavirus and the norovirus.

“For two weeks, I lost 20 pounds,” said Michelle Richardson, who caught the virus in December. “It was just horrible. You can’t sleep. You can’t do anything,”

Richardson is a three-time cancer survivor, but she never thought the stomach virus could ever make her feel that miserable.

“I was literally lying down on a bed curled up in a ball wishing I was gone,” she said.

All signs pointed to the flu at first. Richardson had a 104-degree fever and body aches that felt like she was hit by a truck. When over-the-counter medication didn’t work after a week, her doctor told her to head to the emergency room.

“I had two bags of IVs — that’s how dehydrated I was,” said Richardson. “I was drinking Gatorade out the wazoo. The only thing I could keep down was the Gatorade. You just ask yourself, what is going on? Why am I not feeling better?”

Indiana Department of Health State Epidemiologist, Pam Pontones, said people often mistake the stomach virus with influenza because the two seasons overlap. Health officials are seeing a spike in stomach virus cases as early as October, but the virus can spring up any time of the year.

Here’s the big difference — flu symptoms usually include cough, sore throat, fever, severe body-aches and fatigue. Stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, on the other hand, can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea — which no pill or vaccine can cure.

“Sometimes the terms get a little confusing,” said Pontones. “Stomach viruses pretty much will run their course but the good news is that; generally, in about one to two days, things will start feeling better.”

Experts say the best solution is proper and thorough cleaning, which is what Michelle and her family are swearing by from now on.

“I got the Clorox wipe for the door handles,” she said. “[Keep them] somewhere where you have it handy. I cannot stress it enough. This year is going to be bad.”

Experts said the stomach virus is very contagious. Make sure to wash your hands frequently.

If you’re still confused about what you have, go get a flu shot.  Health officials say it is one less thing you and your family need to worry about.