Norovirus vaccine in the works

Published On: Feb 27 2013 06:44:04 AM EST   Updated On: Feb 26 2013 06:45:00 AM EST

It spreads rapidly and virtually everyone will get it at least once in their lifetime. Right now, we’re in the middle of stomach flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of outbreaks happen between November and April, but researchers are working on a new way to protect you and your family from the awful illness.

“It was the worst sickness I think I’ve ever had,” said norovirus patient, Heidi Button.

Every year, it infects 21 million Americans, sending 70,000 to the hospital and killing 800. Norovirus, better known as the stomach flu, hit Heidi Button hard.

“I literally slept on my bathroom floor all night and didn’t move,” Button said.

It causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Infectious disease specialist John Treanor says even when you feel better you’re still very contagious.

“Although you recover quickly, you continue to shed it from your body for many, many days afterwards and it only takes the tiniest dose to infect the next person,” said John Treanor, MD, at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Early studies of a nasal vaccine for the stomach flu showed promise, but not as much as expected. Treanor and his team are now testing an injectable vaccine in people.

“What we’ve seen with the injectable vaccine is that the antibody levels that are generated are much higher than we’re seeing with the nasal vaccine,” Treanor said.

Heidi says she would rather the needle stick than being violently sick.

“It’s a horrible virus,” Button explained.

Researchers are continuing their testing of the vaccine. Because norovirus can evolve quickly, once the vaccine hits the market, it may have to be updated and re-administered from time to time. While norovirus is commonly called the stomach flu, it is not related to the influenza virus.