Residents urged to take precautions against contagious virus

Published 12:02 pm Friday, June 10, 2011

The Centers for Disease Control has announced the outbreak of a contagious norovirus.

Chilton Medical Center has seen several patients with this illness in the emergency department.

The virus is characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, body chills, body aches, headache and tiredness. Symptoms usually start 24-48 hours after exposure.

When there is vomiting or diarrhea, the virus can be released into the air and inhaled. Transmission of the virus also occurs through direct or indirect exposure to contaminated fecal material and ingestion of fecal-contaminated food or water.

Those sick from the virus are contagious during the illness phase and up to 14 days following recovery.

Gowns and gloves should be worn if there is a possibility of splashing or contact with feces or vomitus. Any soiled linens should be rolled up to keep the contaminated fluids from getting into the air and handled with gloves. Masks should be worn at all times when in the presence of an infected person. The infected person should wear a mask.

After symptoms have resolved, the person should wait another 48 hours before returning to work. Upon returning to work, they should wear a mask for another 10-12 days.

Anyone who has been sick and works with food should follow the same precautions.

Regular hand washing is essential to preventing the spread of the disease. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have not been proven to kill the virus. Soap and water with vigorous rubbing for at least 15-20 seconds is recommended by the CDC.

Surfaces used by the infected person and any area exposed to vomitus or fecal matter should also be thoroughly cleaned with a 10 percent bleach solution. Common areas used by others as well as high traffic areas should be cleaned frequently during the day. Don’t forget door knobs and telephones.

If possible, have the infected person use one bathroom and the rest of the family use another bathroom if available. This should continue for 12-14 days after symptoms resolve.

The most common treatment for a norovirus when coming to the ER is for dehydration.

If anyone needs to come to the ER for treatment, notify the staff immediately that you might have the virus. There are masks at the door. Put on a mask to decrease exposure to other patients, their families and the hospital staff.

Do not visit the hospital if you or anyone in your family has been ill with vomiting and/or diarrhea in the last two weeks. By coming to the hospital one may pass the infection to the patient you are visiting, possibly lengthening and increasing the severity of their illness.