Five outbreaks of norovirus – a common and highly contagious gastrointestinal virus – since Feb. 1 have prompted the Shelby County Health Department to encourage individuals to take the proper precautions and preventative measures.
Norovirus can spread very quickly from person to person in facilities such as daycare centers, hotels, nursing homes and schools. The virus is transmitted by:
Eating or drinking liquids that have been contaminated;
Touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then placing hands or fingers in eyes, mouth or nose;
Having direct contact with an infected person (i.e. changing diapers, sharing foods or eating utensils).
Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping and vomiting. Some may have chills, fever, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. The symptoms can begin suddenly and those infected may go from feeling well to very sick in a very short period of time.
In most, the illness lasts for one or two days. Individuals with norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least three days after they recover, and some may be contagious longer. Norovirus is especially dangerous in elderly, those with other health conditions and young children. Dehydration can occur rapidly and may require medical treatment or hospitalization.
Antibiotics are not effective in treating symptoms or lessening the severity of norovirus. With no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection, the following are prevention tips to stop the spread of it:
Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after toilet visits and before eating, preparing or serving food or drink. Hand sanitizers are not as effective against norovirus.
Clean and disinfect surfaces contaminated with diarrhea or vomit immediately using a bleach-based household cleaner, or dilute household bleach 1:10 in water (must be mixed fresh daily; never use undiluted bleach).
Stay home when sick.
Do not prepare food for others when sick and for at least three days afterward.
If individuals suspect an outbreak in an assisted living facility, school, workplace or other "closed communities" where there is a shared food source or contaminant, the SCHD recommends reporting it immediately by calling the Epidemiology Department at (901) 222-9243.