OGDEN -- Hospital emergency rooms and physicians' offices have been flooded with patients experiencing a quick-striking stomach virus.
The bug, commonly called "stomach flu," causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, fatigue and head and muscle aches, say health experts.
"We are seeing a significant number of people with this, but that always seems to happen this time of year," said McKay-Dee Hospital trauma nurse and critical care coordinator Kayleen Paul. "People are telling us that it seems to last longer, though, and I can verify that in my own family."
Paul said it's unclear whether people are getting re-infected with a new batch of virus or whether the original virus is just more virulent and longer-lasting.
"Stomach flu is what we call gastroenteritis," Paul said. "It's an inflammation of the stomach and small intestine. Although bacteria can cause gastroenteritis, the vast majority of what we are seeing is viral, caused by viruses, and the big majority of the viral cases are caused by norovirus."
Ogden Regional Medical Center and Lakeview Hospital also are seeing a number of patients with the bug.
"We've seen more than average over the past few weeks," said Ogden Regional Medical Center ER physician Val Rollins. "These things are seasonal and can come and go at almost any time. One to two days is typical for most people, but it can drag on for weeks with some people."
Lakeview Hospital ER physician Matthew Feil said it's normal to feel queasy for a short time after a stomach illness, because of the natural balance in the gastrointestinal tract being compromised and trying to return to normal.
Besides being re-infected or being infected with a more virulent strain, inadequate hydration can cause the bug to linger, Feil said.
"Also, the cells lining the GI tract must have time to get back to normal, so to speak," he said. "There is no cure, just a matter of staying hydrated and allowing it to run its course. If one is unable to hydrate adequately on their own, then IV fluid is needed."
Paul said the virus is highly contagious, so if you have it, stay home. Drink plenty of fluids. Water or half-strength juices are best, say all three experts. Get plenty of rest, take over-the-counter, non-aspirin pain relievers for fever and body aches and remember, antibiotics will not help you recover if the illness is caused by a virus.
Handwashing is the best way to prevent both the bug and spreading it to others.
"Scrupulous handwashing or sanitizing is absolutely essential," Paul said. "The good news about norovirus is that it is relatively easy to kill. What a wonderful thing handwashing is. It's cheap, easy and can protect you from respiratory diseases, stomach diseases, germs, pus, viruses, dirt and many other bad things. Now we just need a chocolate-flavored soap."
If a family member is sick, be sure their bedding, towels and dishes are kept away from other family members and thoroughly washed in hot, soapy water.
If you aren't feeling better in a reasonable length of time, or if your symptoms are severe, see your doctor.
"This is important, because many dangerous medical diseases can present the same way," Feil said.