Norovirus hits several Weld County nursing homes
March 17, 2014
How to prevent spread of norovirus
» Practice proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands carefully with warm soapy water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers. Always wash hands before eating and preparing or handling food.
» Do not prepare food or care for others if you are sick. You should not prepare food for others or provide care while you are sick and for at least 2-3 days after you recover. This also applies to sick workers in settings such as schools, restaurants and day care centers where they may expose people to Norovirus.
» Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. After vomiting or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Use a chlorine bleach solution of 1/3 cup chlorine per 1 gallon of water.
» Wash laundry thoroughly. Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or feces. Wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled items and wash items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length, then machine dry.
At least five outbreaks of Norovirus, also known as the stomach flu, have been found in Weld County, with the majority of the cases in nursing homes.
Four cases involving multiple people infected by the illness have been found in nursing homes and one case was related to a family gathering, said Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman Erik Aakko.
He said the health department would not be releasing the names of the nursing homes where the outbreaks have occurred.
"Usually when it starts, the nursing home or assisted-living facility starts to take more precautions cleaning up and making sure the facility is decontaminated," Aakko said. "The challenge is it's so highly infectious, when someone gets sick, they may not even know they are spreading it."
Norovirus is a highly contagious bug that is the leading cause of outbreaks of diarrhea and vomiting in the United States, according to a news release.
Last year, Weld County had a total of eight outbreaks of the virus, with seven of the outbreaks occurring at long-term care facilities, Aakko said.
"This is not an unusually high amount we're seeing this year," he said.
Aakko said if someone comes down with the illness, it's important the person disinfect surfaces they use, wash their hands and don't prepare food.
He said it can take several days to clear someone's system and the virus can remain present for several weeks.
Norovirus infections aren't always reported to the health department, so the exact number of cases is unknown, Aakko said.
Norovirus spreads by contact with an infected person, by touching a contaminated surface, or by eating contaminated food or water.
The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain, according to the release.
Other symptoms include fever, headache and body aches. The incubation period for norovirus can be anywhere from 12-48 hours after exposure. There are no medications to prevent or cure norovirus. One of the most common complications from norovirus is dehydration.
For more information, go to http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html/.