If you or someone you love has been hit with stomach bugs in the last few weeks, you’re not alone.
Norovirus (or “stomach flu”) cases hit a 12-month high in February, wreaking havoc, especially in schools.
At the same time, cases of Shigella infection are on the rise, and health officials are concerned about antibiotic-resistant strains growing in the United States.
The two bugs that are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in American schools are so similar in symptoms that they are difficult to distinguish.
But here’s how to tell the difference between the two:
Dr. Marci Drees is Chief Infection Prevention Officer for ChristianaCare in Delaware and regularly cares for sick patients.
Asked how to distinguish between diseases, she said ABC6Norovirus tends to start with profuse vomiting and then progress to diarrhea, sometimes both at the same time.
‘[But] Shigella tends to cause more diarrhea and less vomiting. You may have stomach cramps.
Diarrhea caused by Shigella tends to be more watery or bloody, while diarrhea caused by norovirus tends to follow bouts of vomiting, doctors say.
The two can also be distinguished by their duration. For norovirus, he is usually cured within 3 days, but for shigella he tends to last 4 to 7 days.
In severe cases, it can take weeks or months for the intestines of patients with bacterial infections to return to normal.
Another difference is that Shigella patients are more likely to have a fever than norovirus patients.
Diseases can also occur in different types of years.
Norovirus is also known as the “stomach worm” because it tends to spike and then decline during the colder months of November through April.
Shigella, on the other hand, tends to spread at a constant rate throughout the year.
Statistics show that norovirus causes up to 21 million cases in the United States each year, resulting in 109,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths.
The data show an earlier than usual spike in cases this year, peaking at 30 cases per week in early January.
However, they have since declined. From pre-pandemic 2012 he is below the level registered during 2020.
Data suggests that Virginia, California, Ohio and Michigan faced the highest number of norovirus outbreaks this year.
Earlier this month, a school in Chesterfield, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia, told parents to keep their children home for an additional 48 hours after symptoms subsided. This suggests that norovirus is behind the disease.
Shigella, on the other hand, causes fewer illnesses each year than norovirus.
Surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that bacterial infections cause about 500,000 cases each year, leading to 5,400 hospitalizations and 38 deaths.
Last month, a “serious public health warning” was issued for superbug cases nationwide that are resistant to antibiotics and making it difficult to treat.
Whereas just 6-7 years ago approximately 5% of all cases involved resistant bacteria, today they do.
In most cases, the best treatment for sick children is plenty of rest and hydration, health officials say.
Some patients can also eat small amounts of bland foods such as soup, rice, pasta, and bread.
Children should see a doctor only if they start to develop symptoms such as bloody stools, persistent fever, severe stomach cramps, and dehydration.
In such cases, stool tests are done to determine whether the infection is due to Shigella or norovirus.
Because Shigella is caused by bacteria, it can be treated with a range of antibiotics.
However, there is no similar treatment for norovirus, which is caused by the virus, and doctors focus instead on managing symptoms.