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WDH is seeing more norovirus

Dec 20, 2016 By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Department of Health has seen an increase in people reporting norovirus in certain areas of the state.

A press release from the WDH did not mention norovirus reports in Fremont County but did indicate people had contracted the illness in Casper and Cheyenne.

Officials said the virus is commonly described as the stomach flu or food poisoning. It is spread when people eat or drink contaminated food and beverages, touch surfaces contaminated with the virus, or make close contact with someone who is already sick.

WDH surveillance epidemiologist Cody Loveland said the virus spreads in places where people are in close contact - like schools, daycares and nursing homes.

"That's exactly what's being reported from both Casper and Cheyenne right now," Loveland stated in a release.

WDH spokeswoman Kim Deti told the Lander Journal the department does not keep statistics on this virus for specific counties - like Fremont County - or for the state.

"Norovirus is very common, and most people do not seek medical attention," Deti explained. "We are aware when there are outbreaks, and through communication methods with health care facilities, we can tell when there are spikes."

Symptoms

Because of the uptick WDH is seeing in two of Wyoming's largest cities, Deti said the department wanted to take an opportunity to share some information about norovirus.

People who have norovirus could experience nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, fatigue and dehydration.

The illness can hit quickly between 12 and 48 hours after a person is exposed. The symptoms last from one to three days and usually go away without causing long-term problems.

"However, because norovirus can be serious when people become dehydrated, those who become severely ill may need to call or visit a medical professional," the release states. "Infants, young children, immune-compromised persons, and persons unable to care for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly, are at higher risk for dehydration and may need hospitalization."

Loveland noted people tend to blame the last thing they ate, but norovirus is spread through other routes from just food.

"Norovirus illnesses can be prevented," Loveland said. "Good hand washing is critical because people can still be contagious and spread the virus for a few days after symptoms end."

Recommendations

The WDH has made a list of ways to help prevent the spread of norovirus. Those include:

-Frequent hand washing

-Staying home from work and school if ill, especially if employed in food-handling, healthcare or child care

-Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of vomiting or diarrhea with a solution of 1 cup household bleach per 1 gallon of water and letting the solution sit for one minute

-Immediately removing and washing contaminated clothing or linens after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap)

-Flushing or discarding any vomit and/or feces in the toilet and keeping the surrounding area clean

Ill persons should take extra care to avoid spreading the virus by minimizing contact with other persons while ill and practicing good hygiene. For more information call the WDH at 777-7656.

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