November 1, 2006

Norovirus Present in City

Winnipeggers reminded to take protective measures to prevent illness

Several confirmed cases of norovirus have been reported from city hospitals, emergency rooms, personal care homes and elsewhere in the community, Dr. Margaret Fast, WRHA Medical Officer of Health reported today.

"It's important for Winnipeggers to be aware of this and ensure they pay close attention to hand hygiene/hand washing," Dr. Fast said, adding the main symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps can last up to three days. As well, norovirus (norovirus gastroenteritis) can be spread for at least three days after the symptoms end.

"This is a disease that can make some people very sick," Dr. Fast said. "It's very contagious and only a few virus particles are needed to make someone ill."

Often referred to as 'stomach flu', norovirus is not caused by or related to influenza viruses. Unlike influenza, there is no vaccine for norovirus.  The norovirus is spread from person to person via contaminated hands or through exposure to food, water or surfaces contaminated by an infected person.

Because it is so easily spread, it is frequently associated with outbreaks in schools, daycares, hospitals, nursing homes or other settings where people are in close proximity to each other.

"The best protection against this illness is to wash your hands - carefully, frequently and thoroughly," Dr. Fast said.

If you think you have norovirus, you should:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  2. Not prepare or handle food that will be eaten by others
  3. Wash your hands, especially after using the washroom or preparing food.

If symptoms are particularly severe or persist more than three days, call Health Links - Info Santé (788-8200) Dr. Fast said.

"The nurses at Health Links - Info Santé can provide you with information that will help you determine if you need to see a physician." Emergency Department visits are rarely, if ever, indicated for norovirus infections and might lead to further spread of the virus.

Information about Norovirus

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