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The Salt Lake County Health Department published a warning that norovirus infections are on the rise in the area, issuing a reminder to citizens that hand sanitizer are not effective at preventing the spread of the virus or protection for exposure.
According to the department, the county is seeing an “increase in norovirus infections.” While these reports indicate an increase of norovirus illnesses, the exact number of cases are unknown. These cases do not require reporting, so epidemiologists do not have all the figures. What information they do have, however, shows a steady incline.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Western United States (comprising of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregan, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming).
The Norovirus Regional Trends Report shows 3.5% positivity for the week ending on October 7, rising to 5% for the week ending on November 4, 10% for the week ending on December 9, and ended the year with 12.33% for the week ending December 30.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus typically contracted by consuming contaminated food or water or by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus. It is the most common cause of diarrhea, vomiting, and foodborne illness.
It is primarily spread from coming in contact with feces or vomit from those sick with the virus. It only takes a tiny bit of the virus to become sick, making it easy to spread when the virus particles end up on our hands and then touching our mouths, or consuming food that has been contaminated.
Sometimes people refer to norovirus as a stomach bug or stomach flu, though it is not related to the flu at all. Some of the symptoms overlap, but it is an entirely different virus.
It takes just microscopic amounts of poop (yes, I said poop) or vomit (that too) for an infected person to easily spread the virus. This is trace amounts so small that the eye cannot see and the nose cannot smell. With such a small viral load necessary to cause illness, it is highly contagious. Particularly in environments where people are in close quarters. When an infected person is shedding literally billions of particles throughout their illness, spreading the virus is so easy. On top of that, the virus can survive on surfaces and objects for weeks!
This is why it is sometimes called the “cruise ship virus,” because it doesn’t take much for a group of people in a closed space to pass it around. Prisons, schools, childcare centers, care centers, and social events are often at the center of norovirus outbreaks.
One of the most common ways to become infected with norovirus is having direct contact with someone with norovirus. This can include caring for them, sharing food or eating utensils with them, or eating food handled by them.
You can also get norovirus by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus. These are often in a food service situation or due to contaminated water sources.
One of the more overlooked ways of becoming infected with norovirus is touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated with norovirus and then putting your unwashed fingers into your mouth or eating.
At this time there is no vaccine or treatment for norovirus. There is also no acquired immunity, meaning you can become infected with norovirus more than once.
Excessive vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can cause additional complications. Your best bet is to stay hydrated to ward off dehydration and monitor symptoms. Common dehydration symptoms include decreased urination, dry mouth, and dizziness when standing.
The most common symptoms associated with norovirus are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to, fever, headache, and body aches.
It is difficult to discern norovirus complications in children, though children who are dehydrated may display the tell-tale signs of being unusually sleepy or fussy and cry with few or no tears.
These symptoms often begin around 12 to 48 hours after exposure and last around 1 to 3 days. An infected person can continue to spread the virus for a few days after symptoms subside.
In some cases, people may experience a complication known as acute gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach or intestines.
Unlike many other viruses, most hand sanitizers are ineffective at neutralizing norovirus. This virus is not vulnerable to alcohol, quaternary ammonia, or anionic compounds. As a result, hand sanitizers and many other cleaning products will not help prevent norovirus infection.
Instead, the CDC recommends using a chlorine-bleach based solution or a commercial cleaning product that is EPA-registered against norovirus.
If you find yourself in the throws of norovirus illness, there are a few things you should do to help yourself and those around you.
Norovirus is highly contagious. Do your friends and family a favor and avoid “sharing the love.” Keep your vomit and other bodily fluids as much to yourself as possible. Those who are cleaning up are vulnerable to infection.
Use an approved commercial disinfectant that specifically says that it kills norovirus or a chlorine-bleach based cleaning solution to clean up any messes and contact surfaces. This will help prevent passive spread of the virus.
Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands with warm soapy water after using the bathroom or vomiting and cleaning up.
Make a list of the foods that you have eaten and where you got them. If your illness is part of an outbreak, this information can help narrow down the source. This could assist in helping to keep others from falling sick along with you.
If you have become sick as a result of neglect or liability of others, you may have a legal case. An experienced food poisoning lawyer, like those of The Lange Law Firm, PLLC can go over the details of your situation and help determine if you have grounds for a case. This could help you recover medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses brought about by your illness.
Call (833) 330-3663 or click here to email for a free consultation.
By: Heather Van Tassell