Nightly News   |  January 25, 2013

Norovirus outbreak hits US

The highly contagious strain can live on surfaces for long periods of time and is easily transmitted. Currently, the best prevention methods involve frequent hand-washing and vigilantly disinfecting surfaces in the office and at home. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> across the country, as if this flu season wasn't bad enough already, it's now widespread and 47 out of the 50 states , remember. the dc confirms what a lot of us already know from the workplace and the world around us. this other virus, the stomach bug that is making victims really miserable and they're dropping fast. more from our chief medical editor, dr. nancy snyderman .

>> tonight, the cdc is warning about a new outbreak, norovirus , which causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. norovirus is transmitted by people who don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. it lives on surfaces or on food people touch. the current strain hitting the united states is from australia. it's highly infectious and particularly vicious.

>> it can stay alive for long periods of time. and can be transmitted easily to anybody. so it's a small environment with lots of people, and it can get transmitted very quickly.

>> reporter: unlike influenza, there is no vaccine, so the best way to get rid of it, disinfecting surfaces with bleach and keeping hands clean . meanwhile, influenza continues to hit people from coast to coast . at the medical center in new york, the staff is working overtime to keep up with flu cases.

>> our emergency room has been packed. we are stretched right now. 25% of our daily visits are flu patients.

>> reporter: it's a snapshot of what's happening in emergency departments and doctors' offices across the country. flu is in the headlines a lot these days. it started with local outbreaks in october and then became widespread throughout the u.s. and today the centers for disease control is reporting 37 children have died from the flu this season. young children and the elderly are most vulnerable. in it duncan, oklahoma, this elementary school is closed until at least monday. more than 10% of the students are out sick. so staff is spending the day cleaning everything.

>> one morning at school --

>> reporter: and while california had a slow start, it's now catching up. at this preschool near san diego , the staff is focusing on prevention by wiping down all the surfaces and teaching kids the best ways to stay well.

>> this year, this season, this last two weeks, has been very, very overwhelming, almost. because of how many people are sick.

>> it's almost a perfect storm for viruses. norovirus , influenza, and of course, the pesky common cold . a basic bottom line reminder, the simplest way to avoid getting sick, wash your hands. get your vaccine, but watch your hands.

>> it's rough out there.

>> it's rough out there, brian. and it's not even february.

>>> thank you, as always.