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New virus variants: Norovirus is spreading rapidly across Germany


Vomiting diarrhea: More and more infections due to new norovirus
An unusually high spread of norovirus infections had already been reported last autumn. The trend continued in the new year. At the beginning of 2017, around twice as many people fell ill as in the previous year. According to experts, a new type of virus is also responsible for the increase in cases of illness.

Rapid spread
Already at the end of last year it became apparent that the norovirus is spreading more rapidly this winter than in previous years. Now experts report that this is apparently related to a new virus variant. According to the Berlin Robert Koch Institute (RKI), this has been proven in sporadic infections as well as in outbreaks in nine federal states.

New norovirus variant detected
From September to December last year, the experts examined a total of 240 samples from 13 federal states.

The latest epidemiological bulletin of the RKI states: "In 240 examined and genotyped samples, a newly emerging norovirus variant could be detected, which has not been described in outbreaks or sporadic cases in Germany".

According to the information, a total of around 40 to 50 percent of these norovirus diseases were due to the new virus type GII.P16-GII.2. This has also occurred in other countries such as France, Finland, Russia, Australia, Japan and China.

Infection strikes people surprisingly quickly
Infection with noroviruses usually hits people surprisingly quickly and violently. According to the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), the disease suddenly begins with violent diarrhea, nausea and gushing vomiting.

In addition, there is often a strong feeling of illness with muscle and abdominal pain, occasionally with a slight fever and headache.

"The severe vomiting diarrhea can quickly lead to a lack of fluid in the body, which can be manifested by a pronounced weakness or dizziness," writes the BZgA. Most of the symptoms disappear completely after a day or two.

Almost twice as many diseases
Even before Christmas, relatively high values ​​with more than 5,000 reported cases a week were observed nationwide.

According to the current report, a total of around 13,700 diseases were registered in Germany in the first four weeks of 2017. That was almost twice as many as in the same period last year. However, not all cases are reported.

Experts had long suspected that a new variant could be behind this development.

But the virus is no more dangerous than usual. "It can only hide better from the immune system, so that more people fall ill," said a RKI spokeswoman recently, reports the dpa news agency. According to the institute, it is normal for the norovirus to be stronger in some years than in others.

How to protect yourself
Noroviruses are highly contagious. Therefore, the diseases are mostly found in community facilities such as kindergartens, schools, old people's and nursing homes and hospitals. Young children and the elderly are particularly at risk.

In order to prevent contagion, particular care must be taken to ensure hygiene. The most effective protection against infection is frequent and careful hand washing.

Each towel should only be used by one person. In addition, surfaces in the household should be cleaned regularly and the cleaning cloths used should only be used once if possible.

Infected people should avoid crowds of people, stay at home and cure the disease. (ad)

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