RALEIGH — With two outbreaks in North Carolina last week now confirmed as norovirus, the season for the hard-to-fight intestinal illness has begun, say state health officials.
The state Department of Health and Human Services is tracking 29 cases so far in Henderson and another six in Alamance County, said Ricky Diaz, a department spokesman.
Outbreaks often occur in buildings where large numbers of people are in close proximity, such as homes for the elderly or schools. Both of the new outbreaks occurred in long-term care facilities.
It is the typical time of year wed expect to see norovirus, said Danny Staley, acting director of the N.C. Division of Public Health. In the old days, the name people used for it actually was winter vomiting.
Norovirus hits fast and hard. Its main symptoms vomiting and nausea can help distinguish it from flu. It also can trigger diarrhea and sometimes fever, headache, fatigue, stomach cramping and chills. Both winter illnesses can cause body aches, but flu hits the respiratory system with symptoms that can include lung congestion and sore throat.
Typically the symptoms last only an unpleasant day or two, but the virus can remain in those who are infected for several days or even weeks.
The virus is found in vomit and feces and can be transmitted easily through direct contact or by touching surfaces or consuming food or liquids that have been contaminated. It is crucial to clean any contaminated surface with a bleach-based cleaning fluid, Staley said.
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is also important if you are in close contact with people who are infected. Typical hand sanitizers can be ineffective against the virus.
There are no medications to treat the illness once you acquire it.