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NC sees increase in norovirus outbreaks

Posted January 31, 2012

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— Health departments across North Carolina have reported norovirus outbreaks in recent weeks, prompting state public health officials to issue an alert Tuesday.

The state Division of Public Health doesn't track norovirus, so officials don't have specific numbers of people sickened by the gastro-intestinal bugs. They said, however, that eight counties have reported outbreaks, including Wake, Orange, Alamance and Pitt.

"It's explosive," said Dr. David Weber, an infectious disease specialist at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It takes only about one to two days, at most three days, after being exposed before you would develop diarrhea. So that, by the time you start seeing cases, and it's highly contagious, you could have an outbreak."

The Orange County Health Department has seen two outbreaks since Christmas, said Susan Rankin, a registered nurse in the department. Both were at workplaces, and one involved 55 people while the other involved 20, she said.

Weber said he's unaware of any patients at UNC Hospitals for norovirus, but he said most people likely wouldn't be hospitalized for the illness. Physicians are most concerned when young children and the elderly contract norovirus, he said.

North Carolina usually sees an increase in norovirus cases between October and March, but health officials said they've seen a noticeable upswing in the past month.

Protect yourself from H1N1 at the State Fair Washing hands best way to prevent norovirus outbreak

”It is more common in the winter ... because it’s a fairly hardy virus, so it will live on environmental surfaces for days to weeks," Weber said, "and of course, we are packed in more at home. We are less outside, so it does tend to occur more in the winter.”

The best prevention is frequent hand washing, he said, adding that alcohol-based hand sanitizers don't work against the virus.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. They usually last one or two days, but people are contagious for at least three days after they recover.

Norovirus is easily spread by touching a contaminated surface or by eating food prepared by someone who's sick, officials said. Weber urged people who feel ill to stay home to avoid spreading the illness, and said people should use bleach-based cleaners to wipe down desks, counters and other surfaces.

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  • Karmageddon Feb 1, 11:15 a.m.

    "It's explosive," said Dr. David Weber.......Nice choice of words

  • smcallah Feb 1, 10:28 a.m.

    "Another week,another named disease that didn't exist a week ago,which is why they never tracked it. Have you ever realized there are more diseases today then years and centuries ago and there were more healthy people back then.."

    What ARE you talking about? The norovirus is not new. Who told you it was new?

    Also, centuries ago people were more healthy? Really? The average age was around 35 - 40... the Black Plague killed 100 million people. We don't have diseases that kill 100 million people anymore. The Spanish Flu in 1918 killed 100 million people too. That doesn't happen anymore either.

    Where are you coming up with what you are saying?

  • tran Feb 1, 10:13 a.m.

    Handwashing can certainly reduce your chances of becoming infected but not to zero. I wash my hands so often I have to put lotion on them to keep my skin from drying out. Nonetheless, I got norovirus 5 years ago. Explosive is an apt description. I didn't think tomorrow would come.

  • residentialentertainment Feb 1, 10:04 a.m.

    This bug put me in the ER for 2 days its no joke! What the article left out there are different strands of it.. You can get one and you wont get it again but you can get the other strands!!! We have had a stomcah bug here for 2 weeks. It wasnt as bad as the noro however if it was it was a lighter version!! Thankfully.. Thanks WRAL people can say what they think but when they get it their story wont be full of knock off comments!!

  • Pseudonym Feb 1, 9:56 a.m.

    Quote from americaneel: "I think I have that virus on my computer"

    Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

  • JoCoLEO Feb 1, 9:51 a.m.

    "Another week,another named disease that didn't exist a week ago,which is why they never tracked it."

    Obviously you have no clue!!! The virus has been around since 1968 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norovirus

  • Screw WrAl Feb 1, 9:16 a.m.

    Close the schools and clean them or the area will be like a crusie ship before it's over.

  • baracus Feb 1, 9:13 a.m.

    "This is because we had no winter and now winter is over."

    No, that has nothing to do with it. Norovirus spreads by contact with the vomit or stool of an infected person. It isn't growing wild in your backyard.

  • Mother2 Feb 1, 8:21 a.m.

    My daughter works a an elementary school in Johnston County. She had this terrible virus last week. It was really, really bad. Vomiting so severe that her esophagus was sore for days. This bug is AWFULL!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Screw WrAl Jan 31, 7:57 p.m.

    "The problem I see with this virus is people just can't stay at home anymore,"

    Yep, they gotta fill up at $3.50-4.00 a gallon so they can drop Jr. off and go sip coffee and talk on their phones. Oh yes, and some have jobs they seem to still want to attend at those prices to get there. Forget that. Work from home and/or stay home. And that includes grocery shopping for that $4 and $5 a gallon milk.

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