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Stomach flu hits area

Some doctors are seeing an increase in stomach flu in the area.

Dr. Kamille Sherman, family medicine, Dickinson Medcenter One Clinic, said there has been an increase in gastroenteritis since Thanksgiving.

"Stomach flu is not the same as what some people refer to as the flu or influenza (a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses)," Sherman said. "The symptoms are different. With influenza, the symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and muscle aches.

"Gastroenteritis symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps."

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a seasonal virus called the noro virus, said Sarah Weninger, North Dakota Department of Health epidemiologist.

"It's highly contagious. Just 10 viral particles can make you sick," Weninger said. "In a home situation it can be spread through food, so we recommend that people who are sick not prepare food for their families."

Sherman said the best steps are to practice good hand washing and avoid sharing cups, bottles and utensils. Getting the flu shot does not prevent gastroenteritis.

Stay hydrated, Sherman said.

"Typically there is no medicine to cure the stomach flu but there are medications that can help with nausea and or cramps," she said. "In extreme cases of dehydration IV fluids may need to be administered."

Sherman said the best thing to do is see a doctor and if the symptoms last more than a few days, stool cultures may be taken in an effort to possibly identify a bacterial infection.

Sherman also said bland foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast are safer foods to eat for those who have gastroenteritis.

"Staying away from dairy for a couple of days can aid in recovery," Sherman said.

Preventing illness, or cleaning up after one, has kept at least one local carpet cleaning business hopping.

"We have however gotten more calls from people wanting to get their carpets cleaned as a preventative measure to avoid getting sick," said Anita Weiler, Dave's Quality Carpet Care owner and manager.

St. Joseph's Hospital staff said they have not seen an increase in stomach flu and calls to Great Plains Clinic on Wednesday and Thursday were not returned.