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Published On: Thu, Apr 25th, 2013

Montana reports double the number of norovirus outbreaks so far this year

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) says the number of outbreaks reported so far in 2013 is double the typical year, according to a DPHHS news release yesterday.

Since the beginning of this year, 20 outbreaks have sickened nearly 500 people throughout the state, more than twice the number of outbreaks usually reported by this time of the year.

Image/Census bureau

Image/Census bureau

Many of the outbreaks have been reported in assisted living and nursing homes, residents who are often the most at risk of complications from this infection.

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 typicallyspread 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.

“Norovirus can spread very quickly and can make some people very ill,” DPHHS Director Richard Opper said. “To protect yourself and others it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often, stay at home if you are ill with diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea, and never prepare food for others if you are sick with any of these symptoms.”

The DPHHS offers the following tips to prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Practice proper hand hygiene: Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.
  • Take care in the kitchen: Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
  • Do not prepare food while ill: People who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces: After an episode of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a solution made by adding 5–25 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of water.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly: Immediately remove clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or fecal matter and wash with detergent at the maximum length available cycle, then machine dry. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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