Jackson County Health Issues Norovirus Advisory

Jackson County Public Health is issuing a health advisory due to the increase of gastroenteritis cases and outbreaks in Jackson County among daycare and school-aged children.

Diseases that cause diarrhea with or without vomiting are called gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach. It is often referred to as food poisoning or the stomach flu, although it is not related to the flu (a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus). Many different germs can cause gastroenteritis, including viruses (such as rotaviruses, noroviruses), bacteria (such as Salmonella or Shigella), and parasites (such as Giardia).

“We suspect the increase of gastroenteritis cases and outbreaks is caused by norovirus, and we believe that there are many other cases and outbreaks in the community that we are not aware of,” states Andrea Krause, Communicable Disease and Epidemiologist Manager for Jackson County Public Health. “We are currently collecting specimens from cases to submit to the Oregon State Public Health lab for testing.”

There are about 2,500 reported norovirus outbreaks in the United States each year. Norovirus outbreaks occur throughout the year but are most common from November to April. In years when there is a new strain of the virus, there can be 50% more norovirus illness.

Each year, on average in the United States, norovirus causes:

  • 900 deaths, mostly among adults aged 65 and older
  • 109,000 hospitalizations
  • 465,000 emergency department visits, mostly in young children
  • 2,270,000 outpatient clinic visits annually, mostly in young children
  • 19 to 21 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea illnesses

You can get norovirus by accidentally getting tiny particles of feces (poop) or vomit from an infected person in your mouth. Norovirus is very contagious; people with norovirus illness shed billions of virus particles in their stool and vomit and can easily infect others. It only takes a minimal amount of norovirus particles (fewer than 100) to become infected.

People can become infected if they eat food or drink liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, touch surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then put your fingers in your mouth, or have direct contact with someone who is infected with norovirus, such as by caring for them or sharing food or eating utensils with them.

Symptoms of Norovirus:

If you think you have the stomach flu or stomach bug, it is most likely norovirus. Norovirus is the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhea, and foodborne illness.

A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.

The most common symptoms of norovirus are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and vomit or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses. If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, call your healthcare provider.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Decrease in urination
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up
  • Children who are dehydrated may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

How to Prevent Norovirus:

You can help protect yourself and others from norovirus by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water and following other simple prevention tips.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, always before eating, preparing or handling food, and before giving yourself or someone else medicine.
  • Handle and prepare food safely. Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly, food contaminated with norovirus should be thrown, be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant to heat and can survive temperatures as high as 145°F.
  • 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 two days after symptoms stop. This also applies to sick workers in restaurants, schools, daycares, longterm care facilities, and other places where they may expose people to norovirus.
  • Anyone who is sick with either vomiting or diarrhea should stay home from daycare, school, or work until at least 48 hours after symptoms have resolved. This is because the virus can still shed after symptoms have resolved.

Courtesy of JaCo Health