Norovirus Cases Increasing In California – The “Winter Vomiting Disease” Is Highly Contagious, But Can Be Avoided

Norovirus cases are rapidly increasing in California. The “winter vomiting disease” isn’t fatal, but it is highly contagious. The significant jump in the spread of the virus has caused the California Department of Public Health to issue reminders about washing hands thoroughly.

Norovirus, the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States, has reared its head again in California. There were several cases of the “winter vomiting disease” reported earlier. California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith confirmed that California should brace itself as it is experiencing an increase in norovirus cases, commonly referred to as gas stomach flu or winter vomiting.

The CDPH has confirmed 32 outbreaks of norovirus in California since Oct. 1, which the department suspects has likely resulted in hundreds of reported sicknesses in the state, reports Times Standard Health. The number of cases are far higher than 2014, worrying state health officials.

How does Norovirus spread? Norovirus is prevalent in the fecal matter as well as vomit of infected people. It’s highly contagious and can spread easily in closed and crowded environments, like hospitals, nursing homes, daycare centers, schools, cruise ships and restaurants, reported SCPR.

You can easily contract the virus by being in the presence of the patient who is suffering from an infection of Norovirus. People become carriers and spreaders of the virus the moment they start feeling sick and continue to infect others until they get treated, shares the health department. Worryingly, persons who have sought treatment, can still be contagious up to two weeks or more even after recovery.

Besides physical contact, Norovirus can spread by eating contaminated food or drinking liquids contaminated with the virus. Even simple activities like touching contaminated surfaces might cause the infection to spread. Though not fatal, Norovirus does cause death in extreme cases. Annually, the virus is responsible for approximately 20 million illnesses. The virus kills 570 to 800 people per year, reports Sierra Sun Times.

Norovirus Cases Increasing In California – The 'Winter Vomiting Disease' Is Highly Contagious, But Can Be Avoided [Image via Journal of Medical Virology]The infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Dr. William Schaffner, explained.

“When viral particles enter the body, they get attached to the mucosal that line the intestines and affects their ability of vital fluids absorption.”

The symptoms of Norovirus infection include excessive vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps. The virus is also known to cause extreme dehydration. The young and the old may feel excessive thirst, especially if they are suffering from some other disease.

The virus can be easily treated with proper medication; however, it is the contagious nature of Norovirus that makes the situation difficult. Moreover, the virus needn’t be mandatorily reported or flagged when it is diagnosed by doctors or laboratories for the collection of statistics to show trends and outbreaks, making it difficult to accurately judge the spread.

Norovirus Cases Increasing In California – The 'Winter Vomiting Disease' Is Highly Contagious, But Can Be Avoided [Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images]Though norovirus infection goes away on its own, the spread in California prompted health officials to release an advisory about some standard precautions that safeguard against norovirus, said CDPH Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith,

“One of the most important things you can do to avoid norovirus and other illnesses this holiday season is to wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food. Hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus.”

One of the most common points of contracting norovirus is public spaces, especially restaurants. It is when one of the staff members is infected, the food isn’t cleaned thoroughly, or the cleaning and disinfecting of food preparation areas isn’t completed well, that the virus gets a chance to spread. In fact, a few Chipotle restaurants have been closed after 136 people came down with norovirus after eating there, reports SFGate.

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