The Haywood County Health Department is urging the public to take precautions against norovirus after several confirmed cases of the disease were identified in our county.
Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus that is spread through contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up. Haywood County Health Director Carmine Rocco urged citizens to take precautions against contracting or spreading the virus.
“We are encouraging citizens to wash hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, dirty linens, and always before food preparation and eating,” Rocco said. “We’re also encouraging people who are experiencing symptoms to not prepare food or provide health care while they are sick.”
Rocco said that over the past few weeks more than 90 residents and staff of Silver Bluff Nursing Home in Canton have experienced norovirus symptoms, and that the health department is investigating another outbreak with similar symptoms at an additional facility within the county.
“The staff at Silver Bluff is working closely with us to care for residents and staff who’ve contracted norovirus and control the outbreak,” Rocco said. “In an effort to limit additional exposures, we are encouraging citizens who have loved ones in the facility to refrain from visiting them until the outbreak has been controlled. If you insist on seeing your loved one in the next few days, the staff at Silver Bluff will make arrangements.”
Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis and the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States. Infection can be more severe in young children and elderly people; dehydration can occur rapidly and may require medical treatment or hospitalization. Following are specific steps from the Centers for Disease Control to limit exposure to norovirus:
- Practice proper hand hygiene
- Wash your hands carefully with soap and water
- especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and
- always before eating, preparing, or handling food.
- Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
- Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Because noroviruses are difficult to kill with normal cleaning and disinfecting procedures, contaminated surfaces should be cleaned immediately and disinfected with a diluted bleach solution or a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish.
- Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.
- Keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is being handled and prepared.
- When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others who are sick
- You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 days after symptoms stop. This also applies to sick workers in settings such as health care facilities, schools and daycares where they may expose people to norovirus.
Noroviruses can stay in your system for 2 weeks or more after you feel better, so it is important to continue washing your hands often during this time. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water. There is no vaccine to prevent it or drug to treat it.
Many local and state health departments require that health care personnel, food workers and preparers with norovirus illness not work until at least 48 hours after symptoms stop.
For more information, contact the Haywood County Health Department at 828.452.6675. Additional information on norovirus is also available on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/index.html
DATE: June 13, 2014
For more information, contact:
David Teague, Public Information Officer