CLEVELAND (WJW)– It’s a highly-contagious virus that spreads between humans and infected surfaces. Since the beginning of January, outbreaks of the norovirus or stomach flu have increased dramatically.

“It shows up, most times, usually in the spring. And it is a virus that likes to infect the GI tract or your gut,” said Dr. Frank Esper, pediatric infectious specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

It causes a number of symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping and vomiting. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of weekly outbreaks is up from fewer than to more than 50, based on reports from health departments in a dozen states, including Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio.

But is there a direct link to COVID-19 restrictions easing?

“I don’t necessarily know that mask mandates or social distancing would have had anything to do with it. But what it could do with it is that more and more people are going out into the world, which allows this virus to more easily transmit,” Esper said.

The CDC recommends constant hand washing, rinsing fruits and vegetables while preparing foods, and cooking shellfish thoroughly.

“I guess it’s a good thing to say that things are coming back to normal, including all the viruses and bacteria… They’re probably saying the same thing,” Esper said.