Health Department Offers Tips to Avoid Norovirus Infection

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- With outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis, or "stomach flu," continuing to be reported across the commonwealth and nation, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is reminding the general public about ways they can help to avoid norovirus infection -- a common cause of the illness.

"Norovirus infection is very common this time of year and it's very contagious," said state health secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson. "If you have symptoms of norovirus, such as vomiting and diarrhea, you should try to stay home and practice good hygiene, like washing your hands frequently and thoroughly to avoid spreading the illness to others."

Norovirus symptoms often begin suddenly and can include nausea, stomach cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. Norovirus illness can be a difficult experience for those affected, but it is normally short-lived and people recover within 12 to 60 hours.

The spread of norovirus can be prevented by following some simple guidelines:

-- Frequently wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom and changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.

-- Anyone ill with diarrhea should not prepare food for other people.  In particular, people with diarrhea should not work in restaurants, daycare centers, or medical settings unless they are cleared to do so by their doctor or the local health department.

-- Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.

-- Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of diarrhea or vomiting by using a bleach-based household cleaner.

-- Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated

-- Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.

Because norovirus is very contagious, sudden outbreaks can result when people bring the infection into facilities such as hospitals, residential, and nursing homes and schools. No one who has suffered from vomiting and diarrhea should visit or work in crowded places until they have been completely free from symptoms for at least 48 hours.

For most healthy individuals, drinking plenty of fluids and resting at home is sufficient to recover from a norovirus infection and there is no need for hospital treatment. However, the elderly or very young can sometimes get more severe infection and they, or anyone else who is concerned about their medical condition, should talk to their doctor for advice.

For more information about norovirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site at

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/gastro/norovirus.htm.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

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