Attack of the Norovirus?
A new strain of the ‘Winter Vomiting Bug’ has reached the United States, but it has not caused any unusual norovirus numbers here in Concord.
Much has been said about the nasty flu season that’s upon us. Meanwhile, the norovirus, or winter vomiting bug, has also been making its rounds.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the norovirus is responsible for about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year, and a new strain has reached the United States this year. Common symptoms of the so-called winter vomiting bug include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains.
“Norovirus cases often increase in winter, when people are inside and in close contact,” Concord Public Health Director Susan Rask wrote in an email to Patch. “That being said, we don’t have any evidence of an unusual number of cases in Concord this winter.”
A new norovirus strain, GII.4 Sydney, was detected last year in Australia. The strain hit the U.K. and sickened over a million people and has now reached the United States. Of norovirus cases reported from September to December, 54 percent have been identified as GII.4 Sydney, according to recently released data.
Rask said the new norovirus strain has been getting a lot of attention and a good source of information on virus is the CDC website, as the CDC is watching to see how the GII.4 Sydney strain is developing.
More generally, Rask said the best advice for locals looking to avoid coming down with the winter vomiting bug is the old standard: Wash your hands frequently.
“This helps prevent the spread of influenza as well,” Rask said. “Use hand sanitizer when you are not able to wash your hands.”
MORE ON THE NOROVIRUS
The first norovirus outbreak was reported in Ohio in 1968. Today, approximately 21 million illnesses are attributable to norovirus in the U.S. each year, reports the CDC. Of those, approximately 25 percent can be attributed to foodborne transmissions. The norovirus can also spread quickly in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships.
This hardy virus is extremely contagious. The BBC reports that norovirus is one of the few infections you can catch from a toilet seat. The virus can survive temperatures as high as 140°F, which makes eating raw fish, such as oysters, particularly dangerous.
Noroviruses can live in vomit or stool even before a person experiences symptoms, and up to two weeks after symptoms disappear. People are most contagious when they experience symptoms and during the first three days after recovery, reports the CDC.
There is no treatment or vaccine against norovirus. To help prevent contamination, the CDC recommends the following tips:
5 TIPS TO PREVENT NOROVIRUS FROM SPREADING
1. Practice proper hand hygiene
Always wash your hands carefully with soap and water:
- after using the toilet and changing diapers, and
- before eating, preparing, or handling food.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. But, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
2. Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly
- Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them.
- Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
- Be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish. Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.
- Keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is being handled and prepared.
3. When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others
- You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 to 3 days after you recover.
- This also applies to sick workers in schools, daycares, and other places where they may expose people to norovirus.
4. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces
- After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
- Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
5. Wash laundry thoroughly
Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with
vomit or stool (feces).
- handle soiled items carefully without agitating them,
- wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled items and wash your hands after,
- and wash the items with detergent