Stomach Flu Breakthrough?

It spreads rapidly and virtually everyone will get it at least once in their lifetime.

Right now, we're in the middle of stomach flu season. Eighty-percent of outbreaks happen between November and April. Researchers are working on a new way to protect you and your family from the awful illness.

"It was the worst sickness I think I've ever had," explains Heidi Button who had the Norovirus.

Every year, it infects 21 million Americans, sending 70,000 to the hospital and killing 800. Norovirus, better known as the stomach flu, hit Heidi Button hard.

"I literally slept on my bathroom floor all night and didn't move," says Button.

It causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Infectious Disease Specialist John Treanor says even when you feel better you're still very contagious.

"Although you recover quickly, you continue to shed it from your body for many, many days afterwards and it only takes the tiniest dose to infect the next person," Dr. John Treanor, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center says.

Early studies of a nasal vaccine for the stomach flu showed promise, but not as much as expected. Treanor and his team are now testing an injectable vaccine in people.

"What we've seen with the injectable vaccine is that the antibody levels that are generated are much higher than we're seeing with the nasal vaccine," says Dr. Treanor.

Heidi says she would rather be stuck with a needle that become violently sick.

Researchers are continuing their testing of the vaccine.

Because Norovirus can evolve quickly, once the vaccine hits the market, it may have to be updated and re-administered from time to time. While Norovirus is commonly called the stomach flu, it is not related to the influenza virus.


TOPIC: Stomach Flu Breakthrough?
REPORT: MB # 3582

BACKGROUND: Norovirus is a highly contagious virus. It is also called "food poisoning" or "stomach flu," but is not related to the flu (influenza). The virus can be caught from an infected person, contaminated water or food, or by touching contaminated surfaces. However, there is some evidence for spreading airborne (probably when viruses become airborne from projective vomiting and then land on). It is the most common cause of foodborne-diseases in the United States. Anyone can become infected with norovirus and can have it many times in their life. It can become dangerous for young children and older adults. The virus causes the stomach, intestines, or both to become inflamed, also known as acute gastroenteritis. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis. It is responsible for 21 million illnesses, contributes to 70 thousand hospitalizations, and 800 deaths. (Source:

SYMPTOMS: Norovirus causes diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, throwing up, fever, headache, and body aches. The virus often causes patients to throw up or have diarrhea many times a day, putting them at risk for dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include: dry mouth and throat, decrease in urination, and feeling dizzy when standing. Children who are dehydrated may cry without producing tears and can be unusually sleep or fussy. To prevent dehydration, patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids that have been lost. Sports drinks can help with mild dehydration, but they cannot replace important nutrients and minerals. Oral rehydration fluids are available over the counter and are found to be most helpful for mild dehydration. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: There is no specific medicine to treat people with the norovirus. The norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is a viral infection, not a bacterial infection. Last year, a nasal spray vaccine was tested on 90 volunteers. One third of those who got the vaccine developed symptoms related to the norovirus. Researchers believe the nasal vaccine only worked against one of the genetic strains of norovirus instead of multiple strains. The new injectable vaccine works against two, resulting in a cross-reaction that provides added protection. In the new study, participants received two injections in their arm of vaccine or placebo four weeks apart. There were no serious side effects related to the use of the vaccine. Researchers used blood tests to check for evidence of virus-fighting antibodies. Compared to placebo, participants of all ages mounted a rapid antibody response. Researchers believe that the new vaccine will result in patients having fewer symptoms than those getting a placebo. (Source:


John Treanor, MD
Professor of Medicine, Microbiology, and Immunology
Chief of Infectious Diseases Division
University of Rochester Medical Center
(585) 275-5871

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