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Norovirus: What You Need To Know

Wintertime is here again Wyoming. And while that brings images of comfy sweaters, hot cocoa, snow, and shorter days it also can mean the reappearance of stomach flu or as it's commonly called: Norovirus.

The norovirus can come on quickly, usually within the first 12-48 hours of exposure, and lasts about 1-3 days depending on the intensity of the strain and other factors. How does someone get norovirus? Its easily spread in places where people come in close contact like school, daycares, nursing homes, stores, anywhere there may be encounters or shared space with others. So it is crucial to wipe down these shared surfaces like the handle of a grocery cart or tables where kids eat in school as well as taking time routinely to wash your hands.

The signs of norovirus do appear quickly and include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, fatigue and dehydration. Though long term problems associated with norovirus are rare it is best to take these symptoms seriously especially in the case of infants, young children, immune-compromised persons, and persons unable to care for themselves such as those with disabilities or the the elderly. These individuals are also at an increased risk for dehydration and may need hospitalization should the symptoms be severe.

Recommended steps to help prevent illness include:

  • Frequently wash hands, especially after using the restroom or changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
  • If ill, stay home from work and school, especially if employed in food-handling, healthcare or child care.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of vomiting or diarrhea with a solution of 1 cup household bleach per 1 gallon of water and letting the solution sit for one minute. Always follow manufacturers' safety precautions.
  • Immediately remove and wash contaminated clothing or linens after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
  • Flush or discard any vomit and/or excrement in the toilet and keep the surrounding area clean.
  • Ill persons should take extra care to avoid spreading the virus by minimizing contact with other persons while ill and practicing good hygiene.

It's important to remember that the norovirus can easily be dismissed in our minds as food poisoning or some other stomach ailment at it's onset. Yet, knowing that the norovirus is prevalant in our county and in the region can assist with the knowledge that something more is at play and to take precautions to lessen it's spread especially to those most vulnerable.

If you think you may have the norovirus seek the advice of your provider and take time to heal! It's worth it, especially near the Holidays when our immune systems can be more vulnerable due to stress and/or exhaustion, to take proper care of yourself in order to rebound and allow your body the appropriate time it needs to get well.