New Jersey reports an increase in norovirus outbreaks, Princeton University experiences another outbreak
With norovirus outbreaks sweeping across the United States, New Jersey is also being hit hard by the gastrointestinal virus this season, according to a New Jersey Department of Health news release today.
NJ Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd is reminding the public about the need to take precautions to help prevent contracting this rather unpleasant infection.
“The best way to avoid the norovirus is to wash your hands often using soap and water,” Commissioner O’Dowd said. “Alcohol-based hand cleansers are not effective against this virus.”
At Princeton University, at least 65 students have treated for vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps in the past three weeks, according to a NJ.com report today.
Samples from students were sent to the State laboratory and confirmed positive for the virus.
Norovirus is no stranger to Princeton. Last April, it was reported that nearly 300 students were sicked by the virus during the Spring semester. A local Panera Bread was implicated in the outbreak.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis in people.
The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.
Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.
The highly contagious norovirus is the second leading infectious cause of gastroenteritis-associated deaths accounting for 800 annually. Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually, and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States.
The New Jersey Department of Health offers the following recommendations to reduce the risk of getting norovirus:
- Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and changing diapers.
- Carefully wash fruits and vegetables and cook oysters and other shellfish before eating
- Do not prepare food while infected or while you have symptoms of norovirus
- Foodhandlers should wait 3 days after they recover from their illness before returning to work.
- Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean surfaces by using bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a diluted bleach solution (5-25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water). Never use undiluted bleach.
- Remove and wash clothing and linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully to avoid spreading the virus. If available, wear rubber, disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling. Items should be washed with detergent at the maximum cycle length and machine dried.
- Report all outbreaks to the local health department.
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