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Flu or norovirus? Either way, experts say dehydration is a major risk with stomach bugs

Posted at 5:22 PM, Jan 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 11:00:12-05

BOZEMAN — It’s flu season here in Bozeman, and the simple act of washing your hands could keep you from catching a nasty bug that making its way through our area.

“Vomiting, diarrhea, got a diaper rash from having so much diarrhea,” nurse practitioner Abigail Weight said of her 18-month-old son.

Weight said her son recently battled the stomach bug, and it wasn’t the first time.

“He had like 3 different rounds of it,” she said.

And he’s not alone.

“Personally, I’ve seen about one a day which is more than normal,” said Dr. Kristen Prewitt with Billings Clinic Family Medical, “and our urgent care has seen quite a few more. They’re seeing more of the walk-in and the acute care visits.”

Prewitt says she’s seeing a higher number of people coming in with the stomach bug in the last few weeks.

According to the Gallatin City-County Health Department website, 405 cases of influenza B have been reported since the start of 2024. That’s 73% of all recorded cases in Montana.

Prewitt says that because each patient claims to have the same symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite, this stomach virus could be a number of illnesses, including influenza b, but there’s another concerning one.

“One that people are more concerned about is norovirus, just because it’s a little bit more contagious and it hits fast and furious,“ said Prewitt.

Prewitt says norovirus is most common in people who spend time in crowded areas, such as schools, assisted living, or nursing homes.

To avoid contracting norovirus, experts say to wash your hands with soap and water as alcohol-based hand sanitizer doesn’t kill norovirus like it does respiratory viruses.

And if you get the stomach bug, there’s one symptom more concerning than the rest.

“When i do have patients come in, the main thing i look for is dehydration,” said Weight.

In kids, Weight says symptoms can be sunken eyes, dry gums, and no tears when they cry.

“If those were the symptoms your kid was having because they are so dehydrated, you definitely would want to bring them in to be seen.” Weight said.