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

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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.


  • kim ashby

    Let me say, almost exactly, this time last yr, I had what I believe to be the flu. I’m learning from your information that you’ve given on your station, it wasn’t. I want to warn everyone, I truly can kill you. I got sick on a Monday evening. Throwing up/ diarrhea, and fever started climbing. I was so sick, I couldn’t even leave my bed to get sick. My fever stayed at 104.5 for 48 straight hrs. I hallucinated because of the fever. I layed in bed for 6 straight days. I couldn’t even hold water down. A doctor friend even prescribed a suppository to help control mVomiting. Couldn’t keep the oral medicine down. After it was done and said, I woke from this nightmare with vertigo for almost a full week, and lost about 25 lbs. Even after everything, I still really couldn’t eat, and for the next 4 months, I lost another, 30 lbs. I needed to drop a few pounds, but not that much. I’m just wanting to warn everyone, it can happen to the healthiest of people. It’s real, and my wish is everyone get the shot. It could very well, save your life.

    • JDC

      Hi Kim

      Thanks for sharing. I had this exact same thing and though Im otherwise alright its been 5 weeks total an I still cannot tolerate solid foods and normal diet. This year is horrific! Hope you are feeling better.

  • Patty

    The shot would not have prevented nor helped your issue. You said yourself it wasn't the flu and the article says there is nothing you can do for those stomach viruses.

  • will

    back in the mid 70's i had the Hong Kong flu……….. imagine having seven brothers and sisters all getting sick one by one by one……… what a nightmare. i'll never forget how i felt like i was dying.

  • G Sue

    I'm from Michigan and am slowly recovering from the stomach virus. It was the worst thing I have ever been through. It comes on quickly with throwing up and diarrhea very violent and relentless. My husband got it first and he is still in the hospital after 8 days. I got it next (about 40 hours later) and was stuck in a motel near the hospital for 4 days and ended up in the ER because while trying to get to the bathroom to throw up, I passed out and hit my head and my son thought I needed to be checked. I was so sick that I slid out of the wheelchair in the ER waiting room and laid on the floor. Next, my son who was trying to look after his Dad in the hospital and me in the motel room, got it. His wife told me that she had never seen anything like it. It is also very contagious. I read that only bleach will kill it. Take all the precautions you can. You don't want this virus.

  • LIn

    I am having severe stomach cramps for a week with the last 3 days being the worst, lots of loose stools ( up to 8 in a day).. The pain from the cramps is almost unbearable. It gets worse if I try to eat. No fever that I know of but it is more painful than i can describe. Could this be the stomach flu.

  • wraithwriter

    Yes, so. . .I was the recipient of this last night. “Violent” is an understatement – whoa. I don’t want to get into the gory details – but that is one evil bug. This morning my stomach is one giant cramp and I can identify with the truck slamming into me. In my 50 years I’d heard of people with their head in a garbage can while sitting upon the “throne”. . .my turn. That’s so not right! Hope everyone feels better! I’m on my way there. . .I hope. Wonder how this yogurt is going to bode with my unhappy stomach. . . .

  • JennyR

    I am now on day 6 of this. Finally able to eat tiny amounts, but still having chills and sweats (no fever, though), barely able to sleep, so weak it winds me to walk up the stairs. I have to rest on the bed after a shower. I’ve lost 13.5 pounds so far.

  • amanda

    ok im going on week 3 of it had the vomiting the watery stool i became so deyhadrated i had to go 2 x to get fluids the weird thing is i got better for 4 days and now im back to it i dont understand i cant sleep my leggs and feet are restless i mainly dry heave bc i cant drink or eat lost 21 lbs that was last week though now im wondering if i should go in hospital or just go get fluids i know im so tired of this it really feels like there is no end to

  • kuno

    This bug is unbearable. I have had it now for about 9 days and it is actually getting worse instead of better. Very severe stomach cramps. Luckily, I have only had mild vomiting, but I can feel that I am dehydrated and I am constantly nauseated. I have read that some people make the mistake of only drinking water. The best thing is actually something with electrolytes such as gatoraid or pedialite.

  • Jo Anna

    Our whole family had it…son 15 was only sick (throwing up) over night then better after about 24 hours but our 9 year old, 17 month old and my husband and I were throwing up and had severe diarrhea for three days+ I had body/muscle aches, chills and was in bed for three days. It took roughly 7-9 days to recover but my husband and i and our 17 month old were weak for days after. We used bottles of sugar water and Gatorade to keep baby hydrated and our 9 year old drank a lot of Gatorade as did we once the vomiting stopped. None of us had a fever and we all stayed home and took care of each other. We had to have outside family members go to the grocery for us…our car never left the driveway for a week!

    • Tara

      My grandson 18 months and my grand daughter 3 1/2 years are sick since 4 days vomiting and diarrhea and since yesterday my daughter – in – law got it too. For kids I have been giving jello and yogurt and their mom gatorade, peptobismal and kaopectate.

      Do you have any suggestions?

  • Rick Holler

    I was lucky enough to have my gall bladder out and be very sick with that,followed by the upper respiratory flu and now the stomach flu. It feels like your so sick you don't know where to go or what to do. As far as the stomach flu goes, anyone around in the 70's and caught the Hong Kong flu knows that particular strain of the bug was horrifying,two weeks of pure hell. This flu seems to last forever and just wears you down every day, day after day,so much diarrhea that your backside is so sore it just adds to things. I'm glad other people have commented so I know I'm not the only one.

  • Michele

    I am still in the process of getting over this bug. I am on day 4. I spent the first night in the hospital and had to have my fiance speak and write for me cause I couldn't hold my head up to speak or even have the strength to write my name. I am still in pain from all the dry heaves. I had 2 IV bags zofran and 2 shots in my IV to help me stop vomiting every 5-10 minutes. It was awful please listen and wash your hands, take precautions, I can assure you that you DO NOT want this virus.

  • melba

    I just spent 5 days in Athens Regional medical Center with this Rotovirus!! It is awful! Drs think I may have contacted this virus from changing my great-grandson's diaper.He was having green stools & we thought it was because he was cutting teeth. He started to run a fever and was carried to the Dr, who said that he had a virus.I have always tried to practice good handwashing & just don't know why I (at 71 years old) got the virus! Trust me, you do NOT want this virus!!

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