HEALTH

Flu has late start, norovirus cases up

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Flu season is just getting underway, marking the latest start in 25 years, while locally, doctors say norovirus cases are up.

Two weeks ago, a norovirus outbreak occurred at George Washington University. School officials said about 85 students got sick and were reporting symptoms tied to the contagious gastrointestinal illness.

GW student Adnan Rana says he's still practicing good hygiene following the outbreak.

"I've been using hand sanitizer every day and trying to avoid people that have it," Rana said. "For the first two or three days, people were kind of on edge, but once everyone found out it was pretty much just the stomach flu with a different name, no one really cared I think."

As of Wednesday, school officials say the virus has run its course and the number of cases has dropped significantly.

The same goes for Willow Springs Elementary in Fairfax which had more than 100 students and staff members home sick with a stomach illness last Friday. Now that number is down to 15.

"For a healthy 20-something, it's a one or two-day illness with nausea, vomiting diarrhea," said Dr. Martin Brown with Inova Alexandria Hospital.

Brown, an ER Physician, says they've seen a small spike in norovirus cases this season.

"We routinely see people with this on a daily basis," Brown said. "I think we've seen dozens more than routine in the last several weeks."

The Washington Post reports the outbreaks in Virginia are about 20 percent higher compared to this time last year. In Maryland, the numbers are comparable to recent years.

Doctors say they see more norovirus cases during the winter months when more people are indoors.

"[The virus] is spread person to person, so if there's a lot of people in close contact that does contribute to it, so dormitory living, classroom, cruise ships are notorious for this virus," Brown said.

While it appears the stomach bug is getting around, the flu is taking its time.

"We've seen very little flu up until the last week or two," Brown said. "Some people say the vaccination given this year was quite effective."

Due to the delay, if you haven't gotten your flu shot, it's still not too late.

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