woman being sick
© Dragana Gordic – stock.adobe.com
The norovirus, a hypercontagious stomach bug, is sweeping across the Northeast, causing schools to shutter and citizens to suffer from violent diarrhea and other alarming symptoms.

"It is incredibly contagious," Dr. Alfred Sacchetti from Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, NJ, told ABC News.

"Just one particle of the norovirus that you ingest will get you sick."

Recent data from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention shows that the Northeast — particularly Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York — has the highest positivity rate for the hypervirulent strain.

A staggering 14% of swab tests in the region came back positive for the gastrointestinal ailment at the beginning of February.

That was up from around 12% two weeks earlier and just 4% in November before the epidemic.

"My 2-year-old was dealing with some stomach issues last week; his whole daycare seems to be having issues," said Cherry Hill, NJ, resident Jacob Joyner, whose household was stricken with the illness.

And it's not just those portions of the mid-Atlantic region that have been plagued.

The norovirus is also on the rise nationwide, with 12% of tests returning positive, marking a 3% increase from November.

Unfortunately, the stomach bug — of which there are multiple varieties — is reportedly the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis — or gastrointestinal issues — in the US, resulting in 19 to 21 million cases every year, according to the CDC.

Cases generally spike around February and March when people are most likely to be holed up indoors and, therefore, are in close proximity to one another.

Sufferers commonly contract the virus by ingesting contaminated foods and liquids, touching tainted surfaces and interacting with people infected with the virus.

According to the CDC, people who get it from other people generally do so by caring for them, sharing food or eating utensils with them, or eating food handled by them.
Norovirus cases have spiked dramatically across the country.
© CDCNorovirus cases have spiked dramatically across the country.
Once infected, the patient can experience a host of alarming symptoms ranging from violent diarrhea to stomach pain and vomiting, which can cause significant fluid loss and eventual dehydration.

These complications begin within 12 to 48 hours after exposure and can persist for three days.

A norovirus is particularly insidious because of how easily it spreads from person to person.

It only takes a few particles to make someone sick while the infectees often remain contagious for weeks after their symptoms improve.

Children are especially likely to facilitate the spread of the contagion, which has ravaged several schools and day-care centers in the Northeast.

Earlier this month, Irving Primary School in Middlesex County, NJ, shuttered due to an outbreak of the stomach bug.

It has since reopened after undergoing a deep cleaning, ABC News reported.

Fortunately, people can mitigate the spread of the norovirus by rinsing fruits and vegetables and thoroughly cooking shellfish and, of course, washing one's hands, per the CDC.

Unfortunately, unlike the coronavirus and some other bugs, the norovirus has a resistance to hand sanitizer.

"Purel and the alcohol-based stuff doesn't get through the envelope of the virus, and it's still contagious on your hands," declared Sacchetti.

"Soap and water is the only thing that'll really protect you from this."

Meanwhile, those infected with the virus are advised to stay home and avoid preparing food for others while sick and for two days afterward.

They should also drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhea.

That will help stave dehydration — the ailment's most potentially serious symptom.