Stomach Virus Prompts Advisory
FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst is asking the public to limit visits in an attempt to control the spread of a contagious stomach virus.
In a statement released Thursday, the hospital asks that residents visit the hospital only if absolutely necessary. It also asked that children under age 12 not visit the hospital, and that anyone who is experiencing nausea, vomiting or diarrhea not visit patients in the hospital.
A stomach flu virus has been sweeping parts of the state and county in the past two weeks. It has prompted other hospitals to issue similar advisories.
"In the last several days, Moore Regional has experienced an increase in the number of patients coming to the emergency room with symptoms of a stomach virus including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea," said Jayne Lee, infection control/patient safety director at Moore Regional. "On average, we have seen an increase of 20 patients per day in the emergency department.
"We want the community to be aware of this occurrence of the stomach virus and encourage them to follow infection control practices such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding contact with anyone experiencing these symptoms."
While the hospital will not be screening visitors and turning them away, it is asking residents to "be smart" when they come into the hospital. Hospital officials will be posting signs around the building to alert visitors to the stomach flu risk.
The virus, called viral gastroenteritis, is known as the stomach flu, but it is not related to the influenza virus, a respiratory disease. The main symptoms of stomach flu are watery diarrhea and vomiting, but patients may also have headache, fever, and abdominal cramps.
Dr. Jeffrey Engel, an epidemiologist with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said the outbreak is a statewide problem.
"We've heard of numerous outbreaks across the state in the past couple of weeks," Engel said. "While you can never totally prevent spread of an illness, you can certainly limit infection by taking proper precautions."
Symptoms usually begin one or two days following infection and can last for up to 10 days, depending on which virus is causing the illness. Several of the outbreaks have been caused by noroviruses, but the stomach flu can be caused by other viruses as well. FirstHealth said Thursday that it did not have any confirmed cases of the norovirus.
"In general, this illness doesn't cause serious long-term consequences in most healthy people," Engel said. "You feel really awful for a couple of days and need to stay near a bathroom, but you get over it. It can be a serious illness for people who are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through vomiting or diarrhea."
The current outbreak in North Carolina is shorter, with cases lasting one to two days on average.
Engel's advice for limiting infection is simple: "Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands."
People should use soap and water, Engel said, as alcohol-based sanitizers may not be entirely effective against the virus that causes the stomach flu.
Other common-sense precautions include cleaning contaminated surfaces, clothes, and linens after an episode of illness, and flushing the toilet after vomiting or having a bowel movement.
Katherine Evans can be reached at 693-2480 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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