Precautions urged in fighting stomach virus

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Norwalk_CaspidThe Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is asking business and the general public to take precautions to prevent possible exposure and spread of norovirus.

DPH has investigated and confirmed nine norovirus clusters. To date, the DPH lab has determined one of which is the subtype from Australlia highlighted in a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement. Results on the other Delaware clusters are pending.

According to the CDC, this virus strain is currently the leading cause of norovirus outbreaks in the US. While this type is new to the United States, it is not known to be more virulent then other similar strains of G11.4 identified here.

Disease clusters are commonly confirmed in such group settings as long-term care facilities, schools, hospitals and day cares. At this time last year, four outbreaks were confirmed.

Digestive illness caused by norovirus can be severe for those who are elderly or have an underlying health condition. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Some people may experience fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, or a general sense of tiredness.

The symptoms can begin suddenly and an infected person may go from feeling well to very sick in a short time. In most people, the illness lasts for one to 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.

Infection can be more severe in young children and elderly people. Dehydration can occur rapidly and may require medical treatment or hospitalization. Although there are no specific medications to treat norovirus, drinking plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration is important, DHSS reported.

Noroviruses are easily transmitted by touching a contaminated surface as well as by direct contact with an infected person or by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with the virus.

Delaware health authorities recommend the following steps to prevent exposure to and spread of norovirus:

– Surfaces that have been contaminated with stool or vomit should be cleaned immediately and disinfected with a freshly prepared diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach:10 parts water) or a bleach-based household cleaner. Never use undiluted bleach.

– If you are ill with vomiting or diarrhea, you should not go to work, school, or attend daycare.

– Healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes and hospitals, may restrict visitation of sick family members or friends for the safety of not only the ill persons but also the visitors.

– Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. This is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others against norovirus since hand sanitizers alone are not as effective against the virus as handwashing.

– The norovirus is not related to influenza nor linked to the high number of influenza casesso far this flu season. For more information about norovirus, see the DPH Web site at dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/files/norwalkfaq.pdf.

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