Greene County Public Health warns about highly contagious stomach virus

Local News

XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – As the seasons begin to change and colder weather approaches, the risk of exposure to cold and flu and other viruses also increases. 

Officials at Greene County Public Health are trying to warn the public that November through April is one of the most likely periods someone can be at risk for the highly contagious Norovirus

Greene County Public Health Epidemiologist Don Brannen reports that since 2001, Greene County has had 20 outbreaks of Norovirus with 569 persons ill.

The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. It will usually begin to appear within a day or two of being exposed, and then will last for about two to three days. Norovirus spreads very easily and quickly from infected people to others, and through contaminated food and surfaces. 

The virus is especially dangerous because individuals can continue to transmit the virus for up to two weeks after the initial recovery. 

Officials at the center said that the virus is most contagious in enclosed environments. They said many of the biggest issues they have had with the virus is in places like nursing homes, where the elderly quickly spread the virus to one another. 

Nursing homes, cruise ships, child care centers, and schools are all places that officials highlight as at-risk areas. 

The virus is often confused with other similar illnesses and is often referred to as a “stomach bug.” 

“This particular virus is highly, highly contagious,” said Public Health nurse Amy Schmitt. “It travels like wildfire, that’s what sets it apart.” 

“Only a few viral particles can cause illness,” said Health Commissioner Melissa Howell, “so it is important that people wash their hands, handle and prepare food safely including don’t prepare food for others, and clean and disinfect surfaces when someone vomits or has diarrhea.”

Officials also emphasized that the virus is not related to having the flu and that having a flu shot does not prevent an individual from infection. The flu is an influenza virus infecting the respiratory system and does not primarily affect the stomach. Flu symptoms are often fever, body aches, and coughing. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) created a video explaining the virus and how to prevent it:

Doctor suggested ways of preventing the virus include:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly
  • Stay home when sick and for two days after symptoms stop
  • Avoid preparing food for others when sick and for two days after symptoms stop

Antibiotic drugs will not help with the virus. Antibiotics fight bacteria, not viruses, and there is currently no vaccine available. 

The CDC created the video below to help explain how to properly clean up after someone who may have the virus:

Infected individuals should stay hydrated to replace fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhea. Drinking water will prevent individuals from experiencing dehydration while their body fights the virus. 

Officials said they encourage the entire community to limit contact throughout the peak months.

One precaution they highlight is “fist-bumping” instead of a standard handshake.

“Instead of taking someone’s hand,” said Schmitt, “you give them a tap. That way there’s less possibility of that transmission of those bugs from my hand.”

If an individual becomes ill, consult with a health official or contact Greene County Public Health for more information. 

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