Stomach Flu Complicating Things in Iowa

(SIOUX CITY, IA) The outbreak of a contagious infection has been getting worse in the area.
More people are dealing with Shigellosis. A diarrhea - causing bacteria. Now a stomach flu called Norovirus is complicating things even more.

And the symptoms of these two very different infections are almost the same.

The Norovirus or the stomach flu is as nasty as the toilet itself. That's because when you have it, you can expect to spend a good majority of your time on the porcelain throne.

Definitely not the best way to spend a Saturday or any day for that matter but experts say that's the only thing you should do while you have this virus.

"Stay home, stay away from people, drink plenty of fluids and most people will recover pretty quickly in a day or two," said Patricia Quinlisk, Epidemiologist for Iowa.

Iowa has seen 6 outbreaks of Norovirus across the state in the last week. The Iowa Department of Health refers to this gem as the "gift that keeps on giving." That's because it spreads so easily.

"It's very common. It's one of the leading causes of intestinal illness and leading cause of foodborne illness, so it's always with us," said Tyler Brock, Laboratory Director for Siouxland District Health Department.

You can thank the cold weather and indoor activities for the increase in stomach flu outbreaks.

Luckily, Woodbury County has yet to see a full blown outbreak but Dr. David Ensz, at Mercy Medical Center says he's definitely seen cases - even more than last year. He says it's because of a new strain of the virus.

"Anytime there's a new strain, you'll see that spike in the number of cases but after a period of time it will become like a common cold where it won't be so prevalent," said Dr. Ensz, with Mercy Medical Center.

He says it just takes time for people's immune systems to build up against the virus.

But Siouxlanders could attest they've already had to battle a much different infection recently with very similar symptoms -- Shigellosis.

The District Health office says the difference is Norovirus is a virus that must run its course. Shigella is a bacteria which means you need antibiotics to clear that infection.

Dr. Ensz says it's a good idea to visit your family doctor if your symptoms last longer than a couple of days.

Common symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea often accompanied with a mild fever.