Archive | February, 2012

Norovirus: How Worried Should You Be?

6 Feb

Well, norovirus is going around again. Or, more accurately, spreading like wildfire. It’s a nasty little bug, hard to kill and very contagious. I do have some personal experience with this since it went through my family 8 or so years ago when it went around my daughters’ elementary school. So many kids and teachers came down with it that the health department was very close to shutting the school down for a few days, but after wiping surfaces down with bleach it was gone as quickly as it had appeared.

Norovirus has become famous as the “cruise ship bug” though that is not the only place you can get it. Just this past weekend 3 cruises coming into Florida were identified as being contaminated with it and over 200 passengers were ill. In Mecklenburg County some nursing homes have been on quarantine, meaning residents have to stay in their rooms and visitors are asked to stay away. It has also been going around schools and workplaces. Just last week the NC Department of Health and Human Services released a notice about the current outbreak.

Symptoms include upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms are common, such as a low grade fever (less than 100.4), stomach pain and cramping, and general weakness. The symptoms last 24-48 hours, but a person can be contagious for up to 3 days after the symptoms subside. The virus may make you feel like you are dying, but it is generally not dangerous to a person’s overall health. You may want to call the doctor for the very young, very old or anyone with a compromised immune system.  Otherwise, try to drink plenty of liquids and slowly advance the diet to bland foods. Pedialyte is great for kids. Avoid high sugar drinks like regular soft drinks and sports drinks because they may make diarrhea worse. The biggest concern is dehydration, so look for sunken eyes, dry mouth, decreased urine output, or very concentrated urine. If any of these are present medical attention may be necessary if the person is not able to drink more liquids in a short amount of time.

It is also helpful for anyone with symptoms to be “quarantined” from the rest of the family. If there is a bathroom and bedroom that can be designated for the ill person that may be a good protection for the rest of the family (though not foolproof!)

The number one thing anyone can do to protect themselves is wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. Hand sanitizers do not work against the norovirus! Clean surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution. Just like hand sanitizers, regular surface sanitizers may not work. Click here for more info on disinfecting against norovirus.

The Mayo Clinic has a website dedicated to what you need to know about norovirus. Hopefully you and your family can avoid this annoying stomach bug!