The stomach flu is here. We started seeing an increasing number of cases beginning last week.

Across the country many Americans have been sick with the stomach virus. The stomach flu is not the same as the respiratory flu. The stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis, is usually caused by a virus. This year’s main viral strain is the Sydney strain. Other viruses that cause the stomach flu are adenoviruses, rotaviruses, calciviruses, astroviruses and noroviruses. The Sydney strain is a form of the norovirus.

Gastroenteritis can cause painful bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Usually the fever is 99 or less but in more severe causes it can get to 101. Gastroenteritis can also lead to dehydration.

The Center of Disease Control has warned that the Sydney strain is so strong this year that even hand sanitizer and some cleaning products are not enough to kill it. Although it normally takes 1,000 flu particles to make a person sick, the Sydney strain only takes 18 particles. There have been an increasing number of patients in the emergency room and the clinic due to this illness.

The good news is that the virus usually goes away on its own in two to three days.

Preventing stomach flu is better than trying to treat it. Wash your hands before eating and touching your face. Get plenty of rest. If you do get sick, stay at home to prevent exposure of the virus to other people. Clear liquids such as Gatorade, Sprite, water, soup and jello are used to prevent dehydration. You should use this diet until symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea subside.

Examination by your physician may be warranted if there is a concern of dehydration or if symptoms become severe or don’t go away. Blood work or X-rays may be done to confirm diagnosis and rule out dehydration. Anti-nausea medicines such as Phenergan, Compazine or Zofran may be prescribed to reduce nausea and vomiting.