DHSS Reminds Residents to Take Precautions to Avoid Norovirus Infections
As expected, New Jersey is experiencing an increase in norovirus outbreaks and DHSS reminds residents to take precautions to protect their health. Colds and flu are not the only infections that thrive in the winter. Norovirus - sometimes called the stomach flu, viral gastroenteritis, or food poisoning - also likes the colder weather.
"The best way to avoid the norovirus is to wash your hands often using soap and water," said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito. "Alcohol-based hand cleansers are not effective against this virus."
Norovirus is a highly contagious viral illness, which begins suddenly and usually causes stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Some people may also experience low-grade fever, chills, headache, body aches and fatigue. Most people recover quickly, but serious complications can occur - particularly in those with other medical conditions. Those infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin to feel sick until as long as two weeks after recovery.
There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection and there is no drug to treat it. The best way to reduce the risk of getting norovirus is to:
Noroviruses are the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the US. It is estimated that each year, more than 20 million cases of gastroenteritis are caused by norovirus. That means that 1 in every 15 Americans will become ill from norovirus each year. In New Jersey, approximately 100 norovirus outbreaks are reported to the health department each year.
Noroviruses can spread quickly from person to person in crowded, closed places like long-term care facilities, daycare centers, schools, hotels, summer camps, hospitals, family dinners, student housing, restaurants, and cruise ships. In other words, places where people often eat food that is prepared or handled by others.
There have recently been norovirus outbreaks on the campuses of Princeton University and Rider University. Both universities have been very cooperative with local and county health officials in taking steps to prevent further transmission by sanitizing and educating students and staff about frequent handwashing.
Noroviruses are found in the stool and vomit of infected people. People can become infected by: