Tips for Preventing Norovirus

Unfortunately an unwelcome visitor has been making the rounds in Montana. Norovirus, one of the most common viruses that casue the “stomach flu” or gastroenteritis, has been reported in increasing frequency across Montana. According to Montana DPHHS, “Since early September, several hundred people throughout the state have experienced vomiting, diarrhea and nausea lasting 24 to 48 hours. In those outbreaks where laboratory testing was performed, Norovirus was found to be the cause of the illnesses.” Outbreaks have caused illness in schools, child care facilities and nursing homes.

Cascade City-County Health Department works hard to help prevent illness in Cascade County and wants to ensure that everyone knows about Norovirus and what steps they can take to help protect themselves and their families against this highly contagious virus. Norovirus can come on suddenly, but the illness is usually brief with symptoms lasting about 1-2 days. These symptoms usually will include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Since there is no antiviral medication that works against Norovirus and there is no vaccine, prevention techniques, such as thorough hand washing, are some of the best protective measures a person can take.

Prevention habits that are effective in helping stop the spread of illness include:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the restroom, changing diapers and before preparing or eating food.
  • Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness and immediately remove and wash any clothing or linens that may be contaminated.
  • Don’t prepare food if you are sick.
  • Stay home when you are ill and for at least 1 full day after your symptoms end, because you may still be contagious. If you work in a healthcare setting, restaurant, nursing home, daycare or handle food you need to stay home for at least 48 hours after your symptoms end.
  • Keep symptomatic children home from camps, daycares and other gatherings.

Some people may still be contagious, shedding the disease-causing bug for up to 2-3 weeks after feeling better, so it is important to continue thorough hand washing to stop the spread of illness. Illnesses with these symptoms are usually not too serious and most people recover after a few days, but some people may be at risk of complications from dehydration. If you are concerned or your symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider to find out if you need to be seen or tested.

For more information, click here or call 454-6950 and ask to speak with a public health nurse.