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Update on Norovirus Outbeaks

Submitted by Dr. John Carsley, Medical Health Officer
January 3, 2013

There have been several outbreaks of Norovirus infections at VCH facilities, in the community in the VCH region, and at other health authorities over the past few weeks. We are also experiencing some unrelated influenza outbreaks at some sites.

About Norovirus
Norovirus, previously known as Norwalk, is a contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis, or, inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Even though Norovirus is often referred to as “stomach flu”, it has nothing to do with influenza, a respiratory illness, and cannot be prevented by vaccination.

  • sudden onset of nausea 
  • vomiting 
  • non-bloody diarrhea 
  • stomach cramps 
  • low-grade fever (less than 37.8°C (100°F)) 
  • chills 
  • headache 
  • muscle aches 
  • fatigue 

What should I do if I develop symptoms?
Ill staff members should not attend work until they have been symptom free for 48 hours (72 hours for food handlers). See the management protocol for details.

Self care
  • Drink small amounts of fluids such as water or rehydration drinks frequently. Dehydration is the most common complication and can become a serious concern for people with poor health.
  • Try to stay with your normal diet as much as possible. Eating your usual diet will help you to get enough nutrition and may you feel better faster.
  • Try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for two days after all symptoms have disappeared.
  • Stay home from work or school for two days after your symptoms stop.
  • The illness usually lasts between 12 to 60 hours.

How does the virus spread?
Norovirus can be found in the vomit and diarrhea of people who are sick. The virus can survive for a long time on surfaces such as countertops or sink taps if not properly cleaned. People can become ill when they touch these surfaces and then place their hands or fingers in their mouth. Occasionally, the virus may spread through the air when someone vomits.

How can I prevent Norovirus?
  • Be meticulous about washing your hands with soap and water
  • Do not share ANY food
  • Keep your hands away from your face

For more detailed information about Norovirus visit the HealthLink BC website.