Physicians say the outbreak is on the wane. But that doesn't help the adults and children who are still affected by one of the intestinal viruses that moved into the Washington area last month.

Dr. Michael Newman, a Washington internist, says his patients would "wake up at about 11 p.m. to 2 in the morning feeling bloated, nauseous, with some diarrhea, feeling absolutely terrible. It lasts about 24 to 48 hours," said Newman, although some persons complain of feeling the effects for up to five days.

According to District of Columbia health officials, there is a rotavirus, an intestinal bug, making the rounds of the area. Although it has had nowhere near the effect of last year's influenza epidemic, which shut down some colleges and emptied elementary schools, it is causing clumps of empty desks in offices and schools.

"We had 30 or 40 kids" sick last week, said Dr. Robert Dickey, a private pediatrician with a large practice in Southeast Washington. "You could tell there was something going around.

"It's not like when we have fluseason, when we can get 100 in a week, but we've had a lot of stomach aches. The kids seem to have it mostly," said Dickey, who added that fever is more common in younger children than in older ones.

According to Newman, "most people do the wrong thing" when they contract such a stomach virus. "They think they have to eat something bland and they drink milk and dairy products," which are hard to digest.

The best therapy for the virus, according to Newman, is to drink fluids like Gatorade and take something such as Metamucil, which is a powder that adds bulk to the stool.

Most persons, when attacked by any virus during the winter, tend to think of themselves as influenza victims. This virus is not an influenza, which generally attacks the upper respiratory, rather than digestive, system.