Stomach flu outbreak hits the country

By Christine Kim

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach aches. Sound horrible yet? These are the common symptoms of what we call the stomach flu. Recent stomach flu outbreaks across the country have infected thousands and left hundreds of people hospitalized. Although deaths from this illness are rare, it does pose a risk of dehydration. The stomach flu is a viral infection spread by direct contact with an infected person.

Medical Director of McKinley Health Center David Lawrance says that in environments like residence halls, the virus is easily contracted from one person to the other.

“It’s also sort of a nightmare scenario too. Again if one person has it you’re most likely to see other people because again it’s passed from person to person through things that we touch, possible eat and drink too. Some universities have had entire residence halls where everybody was vomiting.”

Contrary to its name, the stomach flu has nothing to do with the flu, otherwise known as the influenza virus. Influenza is a respiratory illness associated with a cough and high fever, whereas the stomach flu is gastro-intestinal. Lawrance says patients usually can’t eat solid food, but should be drinking fluids.

“If they’re really dehydrated and they can’t keep anything down we try give them something to keep the nausea down so we can more likely keep some fluids down. But the best way to get that in is to drink. And that’s to sip on small amounts all day long. Just small amounts over time add up.”

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Lawrance says there’s one great measure that helps prevent the stomach flu from spreading…washing your hands. He says it works for many different things, and it’s incredibly important for this one.