Norovirus is making the rounds in the North Thompson Valley this winter. Norovirus is a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis, often called the stomach flu or winter vomiting disease.
This is not influenza or the flu, which is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Every year there are outbreaks of norovirus in B.C. communities, and are common in nursing homes, daycare centres, and schools.
The symptoms, which show up within a day or two of being exposed, are an upset stomach and vomiting, often followed by cramping, chills, fever and diarrhea. It usually begins suddenly and lasts for one to three days. It is rarely severe and hospital care is usually not required.
This virus spreads best when people don’t wash their hands, or if someone with it handles food, water or ice.
The most important thing to remember if you get it, is to drink enough fluids, such as water, juices, clear soups, or oral rehydration fluids, so you don’t get dehydrated.
Currently, there is no vaccine or medication that can prevent an infection. The key to preventing the virus, or to at least reduce it from spreading, is hand washing, especially after using the toilet, changing diapers, or before eating or preparing food. Proper hand washing requires warm running water, soap and cleansing of the hands for about 30 seconds. Bathrooms used by sick people should be disinfected with a dilute bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water). Any food that has been handled by a person with the virus or exposed while a person vomited should be thrown out.
If you do get the virus, stay home from work and discourage visitors to the home during the illness and for two days after you get better. Even when diarrhea and vomiting have stopped, the virus can still be in the stool for as long as two weeks.