State Sees Seasonal Increase In Norovirus Cases

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

December 5, 2006

LANSING-Officials from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) today reported an increase in norovirus activity around the state.

"Though norovirus cases occur each year throughout the state, this time of year typically brings an increase in activity," said Janet Olszewski, MDCH Director. "Norovirus is extremely contagious and we urge all citizens to take the proper precautions to protect themselves and others from this illness."

Since November 1st, the MDCH has received 28 reports of suspected and/or confirmed norovirus outbreaks occurring at restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and parties/receptions.

Norovirus outbreaks are more common during the colder months and often occur in closed, congregate settings. With the holiday party season approaching, MDCH would like to emphasize the importance of hand washing and staying home if ill. Norovirus, incorrectly called "the stomach flu", can cause acute gastroenteritis (or GI illness) in humans.

Norovirus is very contagious and can spread easily between people and can be acquired by touching contaminated objects.

The symptoms of norovirus infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and low-grade fever. Symptoms usually occur within 24-28 hours after ingestion of the virus, but can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure.

Norovirus is transmitted by eating contaminated food (food that was prepared/handled by another ill person), person-to-person contact (typically in health care facilities), aerosolization (of vomited material), or environmental contamination (surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, tables, etc.).

If infected, a person is contagious the moment symptoms begin and remains contagious for at least 3 days after symptoms end. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting one to two days.

The following steps are recommended for those feeling ill:

o Wash your hands-Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, scrubbing vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Hand washing is the best method of prevention.

o Stay at home-If you are ill with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and/or nausea, do not go to work or attend group events.

o Disinfect with bleach-Promptly disinfect surfaces contaminated by stool or vomit with a bleach-based cleanser. For bathroom fixtures, use 1/3-cup bleach in 1 gallon of water.

o Do not prepare food for others-If you are or were feeling ill with vomiting and/or diarrhea, do not prepare food for others (i.e. food for restaurants, potlucks, parties, dinners, etc.) for at least 3 days after symptoms have ended.

o Food preparation practices-Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.