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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Stomach bug continues to take a toll

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff

Miserable with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea? You have plenty of company.

Boston continues to be mired in an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness, with the latest figures from a disease tracking system showing that emergency room visits reached peak levels in February.

About 800 people showed up in ERs complaining of gastrointestinal woes the week of Feb. 3 as well as the week of Feb. 10, according to the system, run by the Boston Public Health Commission. A similar wave of suffering appears to be sweeping the city this week. That's more than double the number of patients seen, for example, the week of Dec. 9.

"We're seeing what we've seen now for a number of weeks, which is illness in all age groups," said Dr. Anita Barry, director of communicable disease control for the city. While the illness has left some patients severely dehydrated, no Boston patients have suffered serious long-term consequences as a result of the infection, Barry said.

Disease trackers suspect that the culprit in the outbreak is norovirus. The best way to prevent catching the illness is thorough hand-washing, both to prevent contracting the disease from other people and to make sure that if you're infected, you don't give it to someone else.

The Boston Public Health Commission offers podcasts and fact sheets on norovirus in English and Spanish.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 03:52 PM
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