This information is already known to most families in our community, but you might find out why it is so interesting.
This winter, even right now, we are experiencing an intense amount of stomach flu- that is, feeling sick, with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Not everyone has all these symptoms, but most do. The illness lasts a few days, and the diarrhea can go on for as much as a week or two. You can feel pretty lousy with this illness, and even get too dry.
Not long ago, there were hopes that the stomach flus of December through April would be gone. Those stomach flus were once caused mainly by one virus, the rotavirus, and a vaccine was developed to end its impact. As with other vaccines, the use of Rotavirus vaccine across the United States sharply reduced the incidence of infections of Rotavirus, and if all had gone according to plan, we would be seeing a sharp decrease in the rate of stomach flus this winter and early spring.
But nature has responded, with the rise of the Norovirus group, which includes what once was the cause of most of the non-Rotaviral stomach flu- the Norwalk agent. As one might have guessed, when Rotavirus was knocked out of the running, Noroviruses stepped in.
Just last week, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the Noroviruses now are causing more stomach flu than Rotavirus, and they causing enough trouble that rates of stomach flu in the United States are about the same as they were before the Rotavirus vaccine was given.
This is unfortunate, but it explains why there is still so much stomach flu around, even as Rotavirus has decreased. It also is an argument against the use of the Rotavirus vaccine- it prevents a normally harmless illness, and over the course of the last few years, the illness it was designed to prevent is becoming more common as the Norovirus emerges and takes its chance to cause stomach flu.
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