Genesee County has been experiencing a significant rise in gastroenteritis cases. The viruses that cause gastroenteritis, such as Norovirus, are easily transmitted through food, by person-to-person contact, or by contaminated surfaces. The Genesee County Health Department would like to ensure that everyone stays healthy by giving the following information.

Norovirus causes a self-limited moderate illness which typically includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Symptoms may also include low-grade fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Symptoms may begin as early as 12 hours following exposure, or as late as 48 hours after exposure, and typically last 24 to 60 hours. In most cases ill persons recover without medical attention. Norovirus infection occasionally results in hospitalization due mainly to dehydration, with the very young and elderly at risk. Those with sever diarrhea should drink lots of liquids.

Frequent hand washing using soap and warm running water for a minimum of 20 seconds and preventing contamination of food, drinks, water and ice are critical to prevent the spread of Norovirus. Anyone with gastrointestinal symptoms must not prepare or serve food for others for 48-72 hours after symptoms have ceased. The virus may continue to be shed for up to 14 days after being ill. Food handlers who were recently sick should be given different duties so they do not have to handle food during that period.

Norovirus is easily transmitted and as few as ten virus particles can cause illness. The virus can survive up to a month at room temperature and two months more if refrigerated. Norovirus in vomit can be aerosolized and spread up to 40 feet. Any surfaces that are contaminated with feces or vomit must be thoroughly cleaned with hot, soapy water. Norovirus is resistant to some household disinfectants at normal concentrations. After cleaning, the best way to disinfect contaminated surfaces is to use chlorine bleach in a mixture of 1/3 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Further information about norovirus and environmental cleaning can be found at www.gchd.us.