Officials are concerned about a potential norovirus outbreak after over 100 children called in sick at a school in Washington. Grant County Health District is quarantining the school and is scrubbing the school down. The symptoms include upset stomach, diarrhea, and fever, and it is known to cause kidney failure and pneumonia. It spreads like wildfire and lives on seats and counter tops. Officials say that the best way to prevent the virus spread is by staying away from people if you are sick and wash your hands with soap and water.
What is a norovirus infection?
Norovirus infection is the usual cause of “stomach flu,” gastroenteritis outbreaks. According to CDC statistics, 21 million cases are reported in the U.S., every year. Food-borne outbreaks are more common during winter.
Norovirus is the group of viruses referred as “Norwalk-like” viruses, after a gastroenteritis outbreak in a school in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1968. Norovirus infection has been seen as coming from nursing homes, schools, and restaurants. The illness will resolve on its own within 60 hours without serious long-term effects unless the patient is dehydrated.
Norovirus infection is highly contagious and could easily infect many people in a small environment. It is responsible for 50% of food-related gastroenteritis cases. People can get the infection by consuming contaminated food and water from infected individuals.
Diagnostic tests are available at state reference laboratories to determine the cause of major outbreaks, but the test is not routinely performed when individuals develop stomach flu. The virus can survive chlorine levels present in water systems, but it is killed at above 140 F.
Prevention of norovirus infection?
It is unlikely to prevent the infection because it is highly contagious and there is no vaccine against it. Then again, safe hygienic practices when handling food and water and disinfection of contaminated surfaces can avoid the spread of the infection. You have a better chance of getting infected if you:
• Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
• Make sure that oysters and shellfish are thoroughly cooked.
• Disinfect your kitchen surfaces with bleach.
• Use disposal gloves when handling soiled laundry.
• Wash your hands properly with soap and water. Use alcohol-based sanitizers in between washings.
• Never prepare food if you have been infected by norovirus.
Norovirus outbreak traced to Hillsboro diaper station
Washington County health experts traced a norovirus outbreak to a changing table at a Hillsboro car dealership. Washington County Epidemiologist, Kim Repp, said in May of 2012, she investigated the outbreak that sickened more than a dozen people.
Initially, the virus was believed to have originated from sandwiches served in a business meeting. However, an employee remembered cleaning up the mess of a sick child in the bathroom changing table.
Repp said that even though she washed her hands, the virus was transmitted to those who have touched the bathroom surface.
Parents should think twice about putting their child on changing stations. While soap and water will not kill the norovirus, you should do it before you infect yourself.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas