Moore Sees Cases of Norovirus
A number of cases of the norovirus have been reported in Moore County, but so far the situation said to be is under control.
Moore County Health Director Robert Wittmann said Tuesday that the local situation is not serious. The Health Department did send out a news release to inform the public about the presence of the virus and to advise preventive measures. Click here for more information on norovirus.
"We do have a few cases here, but they are contained," he said. "However, there are probably cases out there that we don't know about."
Most of the cases have been at assisted living facilities.
The county reported 31 cases at Fox Hollow in Southern Pines. Those have all run their courses, according to Patty Kempton, communicable disease nurse for the Health Department.
There are another 42 suspected cases - 34 patients and eight staff - at Magnolia Gardens. Those have not been confirmed, she said.
None of the cases were believed to be caused by food, Compton said.
The norovirus is extremely contagious and spreads easily from person to person. Anyone can become infected.
Wittmann reminded everyone that norovirus cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is a virus, not a bacteria.
"So don't go running to your doctor and asking for antibiotics," Wittmann said.
Outbreaks of norovirus have been reported in other areas of North Carolina, usually showing up in places where people are living closely with each other, such as nursing homes and retirement communities. Attention was first drawn to the virus when an outbreak was reported elsewhere on a cruise ship.
Although the norovirus outbreak is not serious in Moore County at this time, Wittmann said the state health agency asked all county health departments to publicize information advising the public on the best ways to protect themselves from the disease.
"All counties are susceptible, and Moore is among them," he said. "We wanted to notify the public locally that this is what you look for and this is how you protect yourself."
Norovirus is a virus of the stomach that is transmitted by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated, touching surfaces that are contaminated and then touching the hand to the mouth. Other ways to contract the virus include breathing aerosolized infected vomit, not washing hands after using the bathroom or diapering, and having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms.
People infected with norovirus are contagious from the onset of symptoms until at least 48 hours after recovery, according to the news release issued by the health agency. It adds that food service workers should not prepare or handle food for two full days after recovery from any diarrheal disease.
The health department also urges that anyone with symptoms refrain from working with the young and the elderly and not to be involved in patient care until 48 hours after symptoms resolve. Children who are sick must not attend school or day care while ill and must not return to school or day care until 48 hours after symptoms resolve.
Wittmann said it is especially important for restaurant operators to advise their employees about the virus and how to prevent its spread.
"This virus can damage a business," he said. "We have the potential out there."
Symptoms of norovirus usually develop 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus. The illness often begins suddenly and may include nausea, vomiting, nonbloody diarrhea and stomach cramping. Some people will suffer from a low-grade fever, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness.
The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only one to two days and rarely causing long-term problems after recovery. Persons suffering from norovirus run the risk of becoming dehydrated and should drink plenty of liquids to replace liquids lost during vomiting and from diarrhea.
To prevent further spread of the virus, the health department advises these measures:
n Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers and preparing food and drink. Do not rely on alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
n Carefully wash fruits and vegetables.
n Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces, such as bathroom fixtures and toys, with a chlorine bleach-based cleaner. One and two-thirds cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water is recommended for disinfection of nonporous surfaces. Do not mix ammonia or products containing ammonia with chlorine bleach.
n Immediately remove and wash clothing and linens with soap and hot water after they are soiled.
n Refrain from preparing food and drink or caring for others if you have diarrhea until at least 48 hours after symptoms resolve.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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