An outbreak of the flu is keeping doctors busy around the country, but it's not the only illness on the rise.

"Norovirus has also been really high," said Coliseum Northside Hospital emergency room nurse Courtney Avery. "It has a similar season to flu, but in the last two weeks we saw a huge peak in norovirus."

According to the CDC, around 20 million cases of the viral illness are recorded every year.

Avery says they're rarely pleasant. The main symptoms are severe vomiting and diarrhea and it typically lasts last one to three days.

John Polites is a medical student at Mercer University. He says coming down with norovirus would be devastating to his studies.

"Especially with norovirus, we could be out of commission for two or three days. It would be detrimental to everything, I mean, we'd be so far behind," said Polites.

He says he's been extra careful to not only use hand sanitizer, but also wash his hands with soap and water.

According to Nurse Avery, that's the best way to protect yourself from the virus.

If you do get sick, usually the best thing to do is just ride it out at home.

"You treat norovirus at home by preventing dehydration so you want to increase fluid intakes with things like Gatorade and water," said Avery.

Still, if you're sick with the virus and stop urinating or have prolonged dry mouth, Avery says it's probably a good idea to see a doctor to make sure you're not becoming dehydrated.

Avery adds that the virus is common in highly populated places like schools, offices and nursing homes.

So if you're dropping the kids off at school or visiting grandpa, it's probably not a bad idea to wash those hands after you're finished.