Norovirus outbreaks reported in Nebraska - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Norovirus outbreaks reported in Nebraska

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Posted By:  Jenn Schanz
Jschanz@klkntv.com

You may have remembered hearing about hundreds of people getting sick on a cruise ship about a month ago. Well it wasn't the flu or food poisoning; it was something even stronger.

"This is a virus. There's no shot for it, there's no pill you can take to prevent it or cure it," says Nancy Orsborn, Director of Nursing at UNL's Health Center. 

It effects 20 million people a year, but health officials say in the past several weeks, it's made a big presence in Nebraska.

I spoke to Jenny Winter of Lincoln over the phone, her whole family's got it.

"I had it and then my son got it and then my husband got it and now I  have it again," she says. 

UNL saw about 10 cases a few weeks ago; symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

"For us it started out with severe stomach cramping, the fever, and the chills," Winter says. 

Symptoms usually start 12–48 hours after exposure, and last one to three days. 

"A lot of people think that it's food poisoning because it is pretty severe and drastic," says Orsborn. 

Health officials say it's important to drink plenty of liquids, as the symptoms can often cause dehydration.

Similar to the flu, the Norovirus is easily spread; Like when people with symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea prepare food.

You can also catch it through direct contact with someone infected.

Hand to mouth transfer after touching a contaminated surface is another way to get it.

Prevention tips:
  • Have a "sick" bag close by - With Norovirus infection, vomiting can happen so quickly that you may be unable to reach the bathroom. If you're nauseous, find something that can be used to contain the vomit to help control the spread of the virus.
  • Do not prepare food for other people during your illness and for two to three days after getting better.
  • Clean and disinfect any object or surface contaminated by vomiting or diarrhea with a household cleaner containing bleach or with a homemade cleaner made by adding 5-25 tablespoons of bleach to a gallon of water.
  • Wash clothing that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness, using hot water and soap.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating and after going to the bathroom or changing diapers.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook shellfish thoroughly - Cook shellfish to 140 degrees or higher.

People working in child care centers, schools or nursing homes should pay special attention to children or residents who have symptoms of Norovirus. The virus can spread very fast in these types of environments.

Additional recommendations for facilities having Norovirus outbreaks:

  • Restrict or defer admissions to affected areas and exclude non-essential staff.
  • Stop all group activities temporarily.
  • Notify visitors and provide hand washing instructions.
  • Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of patient care areas and frequently touched surfaces.

Suspected Norovirus outbreaks in facilities should be reported to a local health department or DHHS' Office of Epidemiology at 402-471-2937.  Public health officials will work with facilities and provide guidance, recommendations and suggest appropriate testing.

Find your local health department here - http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Documents/contacts.pdf

For more information about Norovirus, go to http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/downloads/keyfacts.pdf.

Reporter Jenn Schanz is talking to health officials today.  Watch tonight at 5 & 6.

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