Protect yourself from norovirus
Feb. 12, 2013 — Severe stomach cramping, diarrhea and/or vomiting may indicate you have the Norovirus, a group of related viruses that causes an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
According to Cheryl Damm, a Lassen County public health nurse, there are six suspected cases of norovirus in the area but they aren’t confirmed.
She said symptoms last three days so doctors don’t usually test for it.
The norovirus is not related to the flu, which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, so people who have received flu shots can still get it.
Damm said symptoms will appear one to two days after a person is exposed to the Norovirus, “so it comes on really fast,” and it can be passed quickly from person to person.
The highly contagious norovirus can be contracted by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with it and then putting your hand and finger in your mouth; having direct contact with a person who is infected with norvirus, such as sharing food or utensils with them, or through food or drinking liquids contaminated by someone who has had vomit or stools on their hands.
People are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill until at least three days after they recover. However, the CDC said some people may be contagious for even longer.
Drugs or antibiotics are not available to treat the norovirus, but if you have it, Damm said it is important to stay hydrated. The CDC said the virus is usually not serious, but it can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and people with other health conditions.
Damm explained children and the elderly can become dehydrated quickly and could need food and electrolyte therapy.
The CDC said sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine and alcohol can help with mild dehydration, but do not replace important nutrients and minerals. Over-the-counter oral rehydration fluids are most helpful.
One of the best ways to prevent contracting the norovirus, as with the cold and flu, is practicing proper handwashing.
Damm said people should wash their hands thoroughly, front and back with a good anti-bacterial soap and warm to hot water for at least 20 seconds. Children should also be taught to wash their hands regularly by talking with them and then showing them how.
Anti-bacterial hand sanitizers also work if soap and water are not available, according to the CDC, but do not substitute it for washing with soap and water.
The CDC said the norovirus can easily contaminate food because it is tiny and infective and only takes less than 100 virus particles to make someone sick. People should carefully wash fruits and vegetables and cook oysters and shellfish thoroughly before eating them. People should not prepare food while showing symptoms of the virus and for three days after they recover.
Contaminated surfaces should be cleaned by using a bleach-based household cleaner. If no such cleaning product is available, a person can make a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per one gallon of water.
Laundry contaminated with vomit or stool should be immediately removed and washed. Items should be handled carefully to avoid spreading the virus. If available, a person should wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing and wash your hands while handling.
The CDC said the items should be washed with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.
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