Moultrie Observer

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January 2, 2013

Stomach virus is reported

MOULTRIE — Local health officials are warning that influenza is not the only bug making the rounds as a stomach virus has been making life miserable for  those who contract it.

Norovirus, which can be serious or even deadly in rare cases for the very young and very old, normally causes one or two days of stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, the Southwest Georgia Health District said.

“Norovirus causes about 20 million gastroenteritis cases each year in the United States,” district epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins said. “This is the time of the year we often see it. For instance, you may have heard news reports about how around 400 people were sickened on two Caribbean cruises over the Christmas holidays.”

Cases also are turning up in Southwest Georgia, she said.

Symptoms usually include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping. Less-common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and general fatigue.

The health district recommends the following tips:

• Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers. If soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.

• People with norovirus illness should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.

• After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, you can use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

• Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully --disturbing them as little as possible-to avoid spreading the virus. If available, wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling. The items should be washed with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.

“Most people get better in 1 to 2 days,” said Jenkins, noting that the virus rarely poses a serious threat to the healthy. “But norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly and people with other health conditions. It can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.”

For additional information, visit www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or www.cdc.gov.

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