Several cases of suspected norovirus have been reported across the country, including in St. Mary’s County. Norovirus (also known as the “stomach flu”) is a highly contagious virus that causes symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Symptoms typically last 24-48 hours. Each year, norovirus is suspected to affect 21 million persons in the United States. Norovirus can be spread by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with the virus, touching surfaces or objects that have norovirus on them and then putting your fingers in your mouth, and by having close, personal contact with an infected person such as caring for or sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with an infected person.

The St. Mary’s County Health Department recommends cautionary actions to avoid contracting this illness. Tips to prevent the spread of norovirus and other like viruses include:

  • Practice proper hand hygiene. Always wash your hands carefully with soap and water after using the restroom and before eating, preparing or handling food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may be used in addition to hand washing but they should not be used as a substitute for soap and water.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly. Be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant and can survive quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish and temperatures as high as 140°F.

  • If you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others for at least two or three days after you recover. This also applies to sick workers in schools, daycares, and other places where they may expose people to norovirus.

  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution. Wash contaminated laundry thoroughly. Wear disposable gloves while handling soiled laundry. Wash items with detergent at the maximum cycle and machine dry.

If you or a family member become ill from norovirus, drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration. See your primary health care provider if dehydration or other complications develop. More information about norovirus can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html