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Press Center > News > 2013 > Humboldt General Hospital Shares Facts on Norovirus

Humboldt General Hospital Shares Facts on Norovirus

The Humboldt County Chamber of Commerce has confirmed that some members of the public may have become ill after attending the annual Harvest Hops & Grapes event on Saturday, October 12.

According to a statement released by the chamber, the Nevada Division of Public Health reviewed the symptoms reported by attendees, which included severe nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Based on the symptoms, NDPH indicated the illness may have been caused by norovirus.

Humboldt General Hospital Infection Control Nurse Ginger Tanner said norovirus is extremely contagious and is primarily spread via microscopic viral particles that are transferred from contaminated hands to the mouth and then ingested.

In an ill person, millions of particles are present in the stool and vomitus; it only takes a small number of particles to cause illness. This illness is almost always transmitted from person-to-person, but environmental transmission does occur.

Norovirus can persist in the environment and is resistant to most disinfectants; as such, contamination of the environment plays a key role in transmission. The virus can remain infectious on environmental surfaces for many days; in order to control its spread, it is imperative to use EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved disinfectants for norovirus.

An individual can acquire food borne norovirus. You may hear norovirus illness called "food poisoning" or "stomach flu." It is not related to the flu, which is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Both healthy and compromised persons can be affected.

Clinical Disease

  • Incubation period: 12-48 hours
  • Acute sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Watery, non-bloody stools
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, low-grade fever
  • Most recover after 12-72 hours
  • About 10-12% will need to seek medical attention (hospitalization and fluid therapy)
  • More severe illness and death is possible in elderly and those with other illnesses (immune compromised)
  • 30% of norovirus infections are asymptomatic

Viral Shedding

  • Primarily in stool, but also in vomitus
  • Occurs for at least 2-3 weeks
  • Peaks 4 days after exposure, but may persist after resolution of symptoms
  • Infectious dose is only 18 to 1000 viral particles

Foodborne Norovirus in the United States

  • Causes 58% of all domestically-acquired food borne illness
  • #1 cause of illness
  • #2 cause of hospitalizations
  • #4 cause of death
  • When you are sick do not prepare food or care for others
  • Rinse fruit and vegetables
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly

Prevention and Control General Guidelines

  • Strict hand hygiene (a MUST)
  • Wash with soap and water for minimum of ≥ 20 seconds
  • Alcohol hand sanitizer may be less effective, no solid evidence however (to err on the side of caution use soap and water)
  • Prompt and through disinfection
  • Bleach solution for contaminated surfaces
  • Other EPA approved disinfectants may be used; be sure norovirus is listed as being killed with that disinfectant. If uncertain…use bleach solution 1:10
  • Manage and exclude ill persons
  • If you have symptoms consistent with norovirus infection, stay home for a minimum of 72 hours after symptom resolution.
  • Advise/encourage ill persons to self-isolate at home while applying maximum personal and environmental hygienic precautions to protect other household members from contracting the infection.

Norovirus Vaccine?

  • There is a vaccine currently being tested in human volunteers, however it is unknown when or if this may be available for use in the future.

Tanner said anyone who has been tested for norovirus and is positive, or who thinks they may have norovirus, needs to stay home until 48-72 hours after their symptoms resolve before returning to work.

After symptoms resolve there is still the opportunity to shed the virus; thus the 48-72 hours to stay home.

For more information, please contact your local physician or visit the Centers for Disease Control website at: http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/overview.html.

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