Just when it seemed like this year's flu epidemic was finally under control, along comes the CDC with a new plague that's sweeping the nation: the norovirus. The Centers for Disease Control says the stomach bug has caused 140 local outbreaks since September, and that the number of outbreaks caused by a newly discovered strain jumped thirty percent in December.
The newest strain of the norovirus is not especially deadly, but it is highly contagious (it actually started in Australia) and makes even the healthiest individuals quite miserable. Symptoms include dehydration, diarrhea, and projectile vomiting. The latter problem is what make the virus so difficult to contain, as the virus itself can live outside the human body for an unusually long time. It spreads easily through hospitals, schools, cruise ships, and anywhere that people are in close contact and aren't as clean as they need to be.
Even worse, there's really no treatment for it. Most people who contract a norovirus survive—it does kill 800 people a year, but out of nearly 21 million infections—but can expect two-to-three days of non-stop miserable conditions. Oh, and those conditions are really, really gross, as helpfully illustrated by "Vomiting Larry," a research doll created to study the behavior of ... yes, vomit. Not only is Larry a useful (if disgusting) tool, he also help show you what you look like when you're at worst.
Just follow Stephen Colbert's advice, and you'll be okay:
Remember, if you're in public and have the winter vomiting bug, be polite and vomit into your elbow.— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) January 22, 2013
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.