According to health officials, the number of norovirus, also known as winter vomiting disease, cases this year has spiked compared to 2014.
Based on their investigations, experts noted that a new strain of the virus is infecting people in various states across the country, CDA News reported.
The norovirus, which typically appears during the winter season, can induce gastroenteritis in humans. This condition can cause various symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. These signs usually appear within 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus and will disappear in two to three days for some people.
Despite its strange sounding nickname, the winter vomiting disease is a serious condition in the country and affects an average of 20 million people each year. It's also linked to about 600 to 800 deaths in the country annually.
But this year, the Minnesota Department of Health noted that a new strain of the virus has appeared. Dubbed as Gil 17 Kawasaki, the virus caused an outbreak in the state a few weeks before Christmas. According to the agency, this is the same strain that infected a number of individuals in Asia last year.
Now, it seems California is dealing with the same health problem after reporting 32 confirmed cases, which is far more than the number of people infected last year.
According to Dr. Karen Smith, the State Public Health Officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, the norovirus spreads through the contact between the feces and food. Those who eat the contaminated food will show symptoms of the disease a few hours later. Also, sick individuals can also become carriers of the disease.
The virus can also easily spread in crowded and public areas such as hospitals, restaurants, daycare centers, schools and cruise ships. Last month, a school in Orange County, California experienced a norovirus outbreak among its students. It is believed that the virus originated from the school's cafeteria, Financial CV reported.
To prevent the spread of the disease, Dr. Smith recommends people to thoroughly wash their hands especially if they will serve, cook or handle food.
"One of the most important things you can do to avoid [is by] frequently [washing] with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds," she said according to Fox LA. "This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food."
"Hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus," Dr. Smith added.