Norovirus: wash your hands of it!

MANITOULIN–The holidays often bring family and friends together at social gatherings. These events can also increase the chance of spreading viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. One of the most common causes of gastrointestinal illness this time of year is Norovirus.

The Sudbury & District Health Unit would like to advise the public that people in the community generally experience more gastrointestinal disease than usual in the fall and winter months, likely due to Norovirus.

Norovirus, also known as Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses, refers to a family of viruses that leave children and adults with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Headache and low-grade fever can also occur. Norovirus is highly contagious, and can make anyone sick. There’s no vaccine for Norovirus.

The virus spreads primarily through the “fecal-oral route”. This means that contaminated feces from an infected person is somehow ingested by another person.

“Anyone who has symptoms should stay away from vulnerable people and places such as hospitals, long-term care homes, and daycares to avoid spreading the virus,” said Jon Groulx, an environmental support officer in the Health Unit’s Environmental Health Division. “Hospital patients and long-term care home residents are particularly at risk due to their potentially weakened immune systems.”

Although there is no specific treatment for Norovirus, people who are ill should drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. The illness usually clears up within 48 hours, but people could spread the virus for several days after their symptoms stop.

Follow these precautions to help prevent becoming sick with, or spreading, Norovirus:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, as well as prior to entering and leaving a long-term care home, hospital, or daycare.
  • Do not handle or prepare food for anyone if you are ill.
  • Do not visit anyone in a hospital or long-term care home if you are ill.
  • Stay home if you are ill and for two days after your symptoms stop.
  • Carefully clean up vomit and feces, discard anything that was contaminated with vomit or feces, and disinfect all surfaces.
  • Clean and sanitize washrooms and all common hand contact surfaces if there is someone ill in your home.

Handwashing posters, videos, and additional information about Norovirus are available on the Sudbury & District Health Unit’s website at www.sdhu.com or by calling 705.522.9200, ext. 464, toll-free 1.866.522.9200.