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Norovirus Likely Culprit

Public Health - Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) has been receiving sporadic reports from around Dane County of cases of what is likely norovirus. Norovirus, which is sometimes called the winter vomiting bug, is an illness that comes on quickly and produces vomiting and/or, diarrhea. It is capable of spreading very quickly from person to person.The most common forms of transmission are either by touching a surface contaminated with the virus, or by eating food that has been contaminated by an infected person who prepares or serves it.

Specific symptoms include diarrhea which is usually watery (not bloody) as well as vomiting, cramps, nausea, headache, fatigue and muscle aches.  Some of those infected may have a low-grade fever.
The good news is that there are a few simple measures you can take to help prevent the spread of this illness. These include:

  • Frequent hand washing, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
  • Quickly and carefully flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is sanitized and kept clean.

Remember that this virus is very resilient and can survive for long periods in the environment and on surfaces such as door handles or tabletops, so be sure you do a complete job of clean up and disinfection.

Preparing food for others while you are ill, whether at home or as part of your job, is a very bad idea and will help spread this unpleasant illness to other people. It is important to know that you remain capable of spreading the virus for 48 hours after you recover.

Norovirus can spread very quickly in school and child care settings. If children seem to show early symptoms of norovirus: headache, stomachache, nausea or other symptoms, parents should not let them attend school or child care until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.

Getting sick with norovirus during the holiday season can create a particularly challenging and stressful situation.  But any sense of obligation you might have to help out with food preparation should be weighed against the high risk of sharing this very un-festive and extremely unpleasant infection with your loved ones.  Staying out of the kitchen may be one of the best gifts you can give.

For more information about preventing norovirus, go to these web links:
Norovirus fact sheet

Hand washing fact sheet