"Ferrari" norovirus & influenza now health concerns

Santa Barbara County health officials prepare for pandemic

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A highly contagious variant of norovirus is spreading across the United States while local health officials prepare for an influenza pandemic.

Dr. Alan Sugar, MD, an infectious disease expert with Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, told NewsChannel 3 that unlike the influenza, there is no vaccine for the norovirus. If you're hit by either one you'll know; the symptoms are very different.

Norovirus started ten years ago in Australia and is now quickly spreading throughout the states. "With the amount of travel back and forth, that's not surprising," Sugar explained. The cruise ship virus has made landfall in a big way. "Norovirus is a vomiting, diarrhea disease that lasts up to three days. You're sick, boom, then it's over."

Symptoms for influenza strike abruptly with the onset of fever, shaky chills, sweats and muscle aches "like nothing you've ever had before," Sugar warns.

Influenza can last up to seven days, but Sugar cautions that the lingering cough and fatigue can last for weeks.

"Can you get hit with both at the same time?" we asked. "If you're unlucky, yes." Sugar claims influenza symptoms are much worse and says in both cases, people should stay home if they're sick.

Meanwhile, Sugar said health officials on the east coast are in the midst of an influenza epidemic, and while Santa Barbara isn't there yet, he admits local health experts are preparing for a pandemic in the next few weeks.

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