norwalk(1).gifIn the midst of a deadly outbreak of listeriosis that has sickened at least 55 people in 14 states, including 1 confirmed illness in Montana, the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) just recently reported that it has been receiving many reports of gastroenteritis outbreaks in schools, child day care settings and nursing homes.

Since early September, several hundred people throughout the state have experienced vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea lasting 24 to 48 hours.  In those outbreaks where laboratory testing was performed, norovirus was found to be the cause of the illnesses.  

Norovirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis, or what we commonly think of as stomach flu symptoms. It causes 23 million cases of gastroenteritis per year, or over half of all gastroenteritis cases in the U.S., and is the second most common virus after the common cold. 

The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly. Norovirus is usually transmitted from the feces to the mouth, either by drinking contaminated food or water or by passing from person to person. Because noroviruses are easily transmitted, are resistant to common disinfectants, and are hard to contain using normal sanitary measures, they can cause extended outbreaks.

Anna Whiting Sorrell, Director of the Montana DPHHA suggests that “[t]o protect yourself and others it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often, stay at home if you are ill with diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea, and never prepare food for others if you sick with any of these symptoms.“

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