Rhode Island Detects Increase in Norovirus Infection
Infectious disease surveillance systems at the Rhode Island Department of Health are detecting widespread circulation of norovirus gastroenteritis through reports of absenteeism from schools, clusters in nursing homes, hospital outbreaks, and alerts from emergency departments. Cases have been confirmed by specialized laboratory testing at the state health laboratory. This spike in norovirus infection occurs every year around this time, but is more severe this year in Rhode Island and nationally. Norovirus causes short-term, gastro-intestinal illness, sometimes referred to as "stomach flu" (this is NOT the same infection as influenza). Symptoms include the sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Norovirus is highly communicable. The disease is spread when people do not wash their hands well after going to the bathroom, especially after a bowel movement, or vomitting. The germs on their hands can spread to other people and cause infection. Even a small dose of virus can produce illness within a day or two of exposure. Good personal hygiene (proper and frequent handwashing) and staying home when you are sick are the best ways to prevent norovirus. For infected people, recovery usually takes 2 or 3 days, most often without serious complications. Infected people are infectious for 24 to 72 hours after recovery and sometimes longer. The only recommended treatment is for infected people to stay hydrated (drink lots of fluids). People who become severely dehydrated may require rehydration therapy.
The Rhode Island Department of Health recommends that the general public take the following steps to prevent the further spread of Norovirus among the general population:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and running water often, especially:
after using the restroom, changing diapers, or cleaning up vomit
after assisting someone to use the restroom
after caring for a sick person
before preparing food or eating
- Wear disposable gloves when cleaning up after someone who has been sick.
- Disinfect hard surfaces exposed to vomit (e.g. toilets and floors) with a bleach solution of one part bleach to 50 parts water.
- If you are ill, do not prepare food or provide medical or childcare for at least 48 hours after your symptoms go away.
- Keep sick children home from daycare or school.
- Do not attend work or social events while ill.
- Food service workers who are sick should stay home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms go away.
- Do not make bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods in commercial food establishments.