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Norovirus, Influenza Spreading Across U.S.

Flu Season

As if the flu weren’t bad enough, now a nasty norovirus is also spreading across the country bringing sufferers symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The American Red Cross has steps people can follow to protect themselves from the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a new strain of norovirus is the leading cause of outbreaks in the United States and the agency will be watching the situation closely. The norovirus is more contagious than the flu and can survive and remain on hard surfaces for weeks. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and in some cases fever, headache and body aches.

WASH YOUR HANDS “One of the easiest steps you can take to keep yourself and loved ones healthy is to wash your hands properly, especially after using the bathroom or when preparing food,” said Jeffrey Pellegrino, PhD, EMT-B, member of American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. “For visibly soiled hands, first wash with soap and warm water.”

When using soap and water:

  • Wash with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, covering the entire hand including fingernails and under jewelry.
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly with a disposable towel.
  • Use the towel to turn off the faucet.
  • If using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

  • Rub thoroughly over the entire hand, including nail areas and between the fingers.
  • Continue to rub until the product dries.
  • Wash everything from fruits and vegetables to any contaminated surfaces including clothes. Norovirus stays on surfaces so use a bleach-based household cleaner to clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Follow the product directions on the label. Another step is to wash and machine dry any soiled laundry, either wearing gloves to handle the items or washing your hands after doing so.

    FLU UPDATE Meanwhile influenza is declining in some regions but increasing in others. Flu activity is down in the South, Southeast, New England and Midwest but on the rise in the Mid-Atlantic, Southwest and Northwest. The common signs of influenza are rapid onset of high fever, severe body aches, headache and being extremely tired.

    STEPS TO PREVENT FLU The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting someone against flu viruses. In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. 
  • CALL THE DOCTOR If you think you have the flu, consult your health-care provider. Ask to know if an antiviral may be appropriate for those who live with you. Seek medical care immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
  • Confusion or sudden dizziness.
  • Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).
  • Fever with a rash (children).
  • No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).
  • You can find more information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected by visiting

    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.