INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - Officials with the health department in Indian River County said Wednesday there have been several recent outbreaks of norovirus at long-term care facilities.
Health care workers are warning people to be proactive in protecting themselves.
"We have seen an increase in illness characterized by vomiting and diarrhea in Indian River County," said Cheryl Dunn, environmental health manager for Florida Department of Health in Indian River County. "Norovirus has been identified as the culprit in several recent outbreaks in long term care facilities, and we want to make sure that the community is aware of how to protect themselves".
Norovirus is commonly known as the "stomach flu", but is not related to true influenza, which causes respiratory illness.
It causes vomiting and diarrhea one to two days after infection, and symptoms can last up to three days. People are most likely to spread the virus while they are sick and for several days after they recover.
Norovirus is very easily spread from person to person by consuming food and drinks contaminated with an infected person's stool, or by touching contaminated surfaces and objects.
Officials said it can remain on surfaces and still infect people for days to weeks and is resistant to some disinfectants.
Once the virus gets a foothold in the community, it can spread widely wherever people gather.
You can keep yourself healthy and prevent the spread of norovirus in our community by taking the following steps:
- Wash hands with soap and running water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before eating or handling food. Hand sanitizers should not be used in place of washing with soap and water.
- I you have symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after symptoms stop.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Do not prepare food or care for others when you are sick and for 2 to 3 days after you recover.
- Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness. Use chlorine bleach solution (1/3 cup of household bleach per gallon of water for non-porous surfaces).
- Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with stool or vomitus (use hot water and soap).
More information on Norovirus, and how to protect yourself can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website: http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/