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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — State health officials say a new strain of norovirus is making North Carolinians sick.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported there have been seven outbreaks of the intestinal illness already this year in North Carolina.

Norovirus usually causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain.

Health department epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore says the state is working with local health departments to try to stop the spread of the illness.

Moore says many of this year’s outbreaks have occurred in homes for the elderly. He says the virus most often is spread through person-to-person contact, contaminated surfaces and contaminated food and water. Moore says hand-washing is the best way to combat the problem.

The new strain is called Sydney 2012 because it is thought to have started in Australia.

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