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Health Department Encourages Norovirus Prevention

(Mason City) – The Iowa Department of Public Health has recently seen several cases of Norovirus throughout the state. The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health is encouraging community members to engage in norovirus prevention and proper hygiene practices.

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu” or gastroenteritis. Symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only about 1 or 2 days.

A person with norovirus illness can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses. Symptoms of dehydration include decreased urination, dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up. Children who are dehydrated may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

“Norovirus is extremely contagious,” says Brian Hanft, Environmental Health Services Manager, Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health. “Dehydration is the most common complication, especially in young children and the older adults that may require medical care. Individuals experiencing symptoms of dehydration should contact their local healthcare provider.”

Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
• Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus;
• Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth.
• Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, persons experiencing symptoms of norovirus should wash their hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom, and refrain from preparing food for anyone else. Individuals in high-risk occupations (food handlers, healthcare providers, childcare providers) should not work until 48 hours after their symptoms have ended.

For more information about Norovirus, please visit our website at www.cghealth.com.

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