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Metro Health Experts Warn About Vicious New Norovirus

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As if the current flu season hasn't been bad enough, a nasty new virus is making it's way across the metro area - and it's a hard one to stomach.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are calling the highly-contagious virus the Sydney Strain of norovirus. Norovirus is often confused with the stomach flu because of its circulation with the flu during the winter months.

But the difference is that while the so-called stomach flu is often bacterial in nature, and the flu is a respiratory illness, norovirus favors the stomach and intestinal tract - causing inflammation of tissues that leads to pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Experts say that infections occur in places where large numbers of people are gathered, such as schools, nursing homes or cruise ships - places where the virus can pass easily from host to host.

Health officials say that it's so contagious because few people have built up any immunity to it.

"It's not age restricted like some illnesses," said Jeff Hershberger with the Kansas City Missouri Health Department. "It doesn't attack different groups different. It really, it's equal opportunity. It's out there."

Officials say that the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to wash your hands, and to stay home if you are sick. The recovery time for the virus is fairly quick, but it's estimated to cause 21 million cases of illness, 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year in the U.S.

"The big risk is that you can digress into dehydration," said Hershberger. "So you really want to keep an eye on that. Stay home."

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