Health officials warn about outbreaks of norovirus

The “stomach flu” appears to be going around and state health officials are warning residents to take some precautions.

The officials say these cases in recent weeks are not really the flu. They are cases of viral gastroenteritis, which gives sufferers inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The inflammation causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain among other symptoms.

Norovirus, which many people associate with mass illnesses on cruise ships, is the most common cause, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The illnesses are also often seen in child care centers and assisted living facilities because norovirus is present in stool and vomit of infected people and is easily spread.

Symptoms usually show up within 12-48 hours after exposure.

The state officials say number of outbreaks is not higher than normal, but now is peak season.

“Simple precautions like hand washing can help you avoid infection,” said Frances B. Phillips, the state’s deputy secretary for public health services. “If you do get sick, we encourage you to stay home until you are better.”
To prevent all viral gastroenteritis infections:

+Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating, and help children to do the same.

+Use a bleach-based household cleaner to disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after someone becomes sick.

If you do become sick:

+Stay home so you don’t infect others and drink plenty of fluids.

+Do not return to school or work until 48 hours after symptoms have gone away.

+See you doctor is you have severe illness because some people will need intravenous fluids, though not antibiotics, which will not help a viral infection.

For more information, go to the state health department wesbite or U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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