H-CENTRAL COAST

Dec 27, 2012 8:02 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Mutated virus strain hitting the Central Coast

A new virus put three people in the hospital on the central coast. The bug is called the Norovirus and it’s highly contagious. Those outbreak have affected two people when they were exposed to the virus in restaurants and one contracted it at a long term care facility. According to public health officials, the strain has mutated, and because we as a public have not been exposed to the virus and have no immunity to it, they warn it could cause a spike in outbreaks. "It’s a small virus that gets in and causes you to have stomach flu type symptoms,” said Ann McDowell of San Luis Obispo County Health. “But this is a new strain of Norovirus we're seeing in our county." County health officials say the new strain commonly known as the cruise ship virus was first identified in Australia. "This virus is easily transmissible between people,” McDowellsaid, “So the most likely explanation is that people that were traveling were traveling while sick, and slowly passed it from person to person." According to the Center for Disease Control, 21 million cases of acute stomach flu occur each year because of Norovirus infections. That sends more than 70 thousand people to the hospital every year. "Like any disease, that's been circulating in the population for a while, people build up a little bit of immunity to it,” McDowell said, “But no one's going to have immunity to it so it’s going to be even more infectious." Symptoms for the virus include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever and fatigue, "So when people are ill they know they're ill," say McDowell. She says some basic practices can help you steer clear of this latest strain. "Practice very careful hand hygiene, wash your hands all the time, but also make sure you prepare your food safely,” says McDowell. “Cook everything thoroughly and wash all your fruits and vegetables."

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