The top doctor in state government is asking Iowans to change their “vernacular.”
Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the state epidemiologist, says what Iowans often call the “stomach flu” is anything but the flu. “The virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting around Iowa this time of year is usually a virus called norovirus,” Quinlisk says. “It has no relationship to the influenza virus at all.”
Influenza, shortened to just “the flu” by most folks outside the medical community, is caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory system, not the digestive system. “Influenza virus gives you the sore throat, maybe a running nose, and maybe some cough and stuff, whereas norovirus gives you diarrhea and vomiting,” Quinlisk says. “But people do get confused and we really need to stop calling norovirus the stomach flu because it really has nothing to do with influenza.”
In the past two weeks alone, state and local public health officials have identified seven difference outbreaks of norovirus, confirming over 1000 cases of diarrhea and vomiting were caused by a strain of that virus.