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The bad news is that flu vaccine cannot protect against the highly contagious stomach flu, or norovirus, that’s sweeping New York City this week—sending more than 400 people a day (20% more than usual) into emergency rooms with severe vomiting and diarrhea. (The influenza prevented by flu vaccine is a different disease entirely from norovirus.)

The worse news is that according to Health Department epidemiologist Sharon Balter, “Norovirus infection is a miserable experience, and can be serious if you become dehydrated.” According to health officials, it’s also highly contagious.

Fortunately, those who have survived the stomach flu say it only lasts a few days. Moreover, there are easy ways to prevent the spread of infection. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water will help tremendously. Since the virus can spread through body fluids, it’s especially important to wash your hands after changing the diaper of a sick baby. Avoiding sharing food, drinks, and/or utensils with an infected person, or coming into contact with any of his or her bodily fluids, will also help.

The Health Department has warned those who are infected, particularly children, to stay home and rest until they feel better, so as not to spread the infection to others.

Symptoms of the norovius include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping, fever, chills, creepy crawly skin, aches, and tiredness.

Apart from rest and drinking plenty of fluids, no specific treatments for this flu exist. The Health Department has asked that people who feel dehydrated as a result of the virus promptly pay a visit to their doctor or the hospital.

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