INDIANAPOLIS - The norovirus sweeping across the country is now in Indiana, state health officials said.
The norovirus, also known as the cruise ship virus or winter vomiting bug, is a viral infection of the intestinal tract, and this particular strain is new to Indiana.
"People have not been infected with this virus before because it is new," said Pamela Pontones, state epidemiologist. "We are seeing norovirus right now, which overlaps with our influenza season."
People catch the norovirus by eating or drinking contaminated food or drink or by coming in contact with someone who has it. Symptoms occur about 24 to 48 hours after exposure, and it's extremely contagious.
A prominent researcher calls norovirus the Ferrari of viruses because of how fast it passes through a large group of people.
"Norovirus is one of the most infectious things on the planet," said Dr. Chris Belcher from Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent, who studies pediatric infectious diseases.
Belcher said norovirus symptoms include abdominal cramps, vomiting, nausea, watery diarrhea, fever, headache and fatigue.
"One of the big problems, especially in younger people or those with medical problems, would be dehydration," Belcher said. "And, some of the signs with that would be they're not drinking enough or they can't keep it down, dry sticky mouths and not a lot of saliva in the mouth, or a big decrease in urine output."
State health officials said frequent hand washing and disinfecting high-touch surface areas often can help stop the spread of the norovirus.
Health officials also said anyone who doesn’t feel well should avoid cooking and limit contact with other people.
"If they can stay in bed, if they can possibly use a separate bathroom, that can help the virus from being transmitted, because it is very contagious," Pontones said.
State health officials said they will continue to monitor the situation and will investigate any outbreaks.
Most people usually recover from the virus within three days, but the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.