MASON COUNTY — Norovirus, commonly called the stomach bug or stomach virus, is a highly contagious virus and is affecting several people in Mason County.
Diana Riddle, administrator of the Mason County Health Department, said her office has heard of many people in the area presenting with symptoms of the stomach bug, but not to the extent that it can be called an outbreak. The health department has provided various facilities in the community, such as day cares, health care facilities and the Lakin Correctional Center, with a video and information about the highly contagious virus.
The following is some helpful information on the virus, how to treat it and how to stop it from spreading.
The norovirus infection causes gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This leads to diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
Some people call the norovirus illness the stomach flu or food poisoning. Noroviruses can cause food poisoning, as can other germs and chemicals. About 50 percent of all outbreaks of food-related illness are caused by norovirus. Norovirus illness is not related to influenza. Though they share some of the same symptoms, the flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.
Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United State and each year it causes 19 million to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis. Unfortunately, there are many types of norovirus and you can get it more than once. The symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting many times a day. The very young, elderly and those with other illnesses may get severely dehydrated in a short period of time.
It only takes a very small amount of norovirus particles to make someone sick. People with norovirus can shed billions of virus particles in their stool and vomit and can easily infect others. This is why people may hear of passengers on a cruise or in confined quarters that have norovirus and how rapidly it spreads. A patient is contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick and for the first few days after they recover.
It is spread by having direct contact with an infected person-such as touching an infected person while caring for them; eating ford or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus; touching objects that have norovirus on them and then putting your fingers in your mouth and sharing utensils or cups with people who are infected. The virus can stay on objects and surfaces and can still infect people for days or weeks. Antibiotics will not help as antibiotics do not work on viruses.
When patients have norovirus illness, they should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration. Taking small amounts of fluids, maybe only an ounce at a time, can help keep the fluids in a patient’s stomach. If a patient is unable to keep any fluids down and notices urine output is very little or unable to arouse the persons who is ill, seek medical attention for assessment for dehydration.
The best way to prevent Norovirus from spreading is to practice good hand-washing after using the toilet, changing diapers and before eating, preparing or handling food. Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them as well as the surfaces that food is prepared upon. Keep sick persons our of areas where food is being handled and prepared. If a food service worker and are ill, do not go to work and for at least the two to three days after you recover.
Cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces is important. Immediately clean and disinfect the bathroom with a bleach solution or other sprays/wipes that state they are effective against noroviruses. Clothing, bed linens and towels should be washing immediately. Remember to wash hands with soap and water whenever in contact with any surfaces or persons who are ill.
Information for this article provided by the Mason County Health Department.