North Carolina public health officials are warning of multiple outbreaks of norovirus, which is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Norovirus illnesses are also called “food poisoning” or “stomach flu.”
The Daily Southerner reports the outbreaks, which are occurring earlier this year than normal, have been reported in eight counties, including Pitt. Other counties reporting outbreaks are Alamance, Cabarrus, Catawba, Mecklenberg, Orange, Stokes and Wake. Outbreaks usually occur between October and March.
“The most important message we have right now is that people who are ill with vomiting or diarrhea should not work, go to school or attend daycare while they are having symptoms, “said State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies. “Everyone needs to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. This is the most effective way to protect yourself and others against norovirus since hand sanitizers alone are not as effective against this hardy virus.”
The State Division of Public Health doesn’t track norovirus, so officials don’t have specific numbers of people made sick. Officials say most people are not hospitalized with the norovirus, but that physicians are most concerned when it is contracted by young children and the elderly.
Noroviruses are easily transmitted by touching a contaminated surface as well as by direct contact or by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with the virus. Noroviruses are notoriously difficult to kill with normal cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Surfaces that have been contaminated with stool or vomit should be cleaned immediately and disinfected with a freshly prepared diluted bleach solution or a bleach-based household cleaner.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Some may have fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. The symptoms can begin suddenly and an infected person may go from feeling well to very sick in a very short period of time. In most people, the illness lasts for about one or two days. People with norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least three days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer, she added. Dehydration can occur rapidly and may require medical treatment or hospitalization.
“Unfortunately, there is no specific medications to treat norovirus, but infected people should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost through vomiting and diarrhea,” Davies said. “The best course of action is prevention.” For more information about norovirus, see the Division of Public Health Web site at www.ncpublichealth.com. Read More.