Outbreak of norovirus in Cabarrus County

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

KANNAPOLIS – The Cabarrus Health Alliance has received laboratory confirmation of six cases of norovirus that constitutes part of a cluster of illnesses in Cabarrus County.
Reports of the disease-like symptoms began last Friday, April 18, indicating the illness is in the community, but not a widespread problem at this time, according to Dr. Russell Suda, the alliance’s medical director.
Noroviruses are a group of highly contagious related viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. The average incubation period for norovirus-associated gastroenteritis is 12 to 48 hours.
Illness is characterized by acute-onset vomiting; watery, non-bloody diarrhea with abdominal cramps and nausea.
In addition, muscle aches, malaise and headache are commonly reported.
Low-grade fever is present in about half of cases.
Dehydration is the most common complication and may require intravenous replacement fluids. Symptoms usually last 24 to 60 hours. About 30 percent of infections may not present with any symptoms.
The Cabarrus Health Alliance, in consultation with the Communicable Disease Branch of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, is working to prevent further spread of the illness in the community.
Suda says people should frequently wash their hands, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers and before preparing food.
“Use soap and warm water, because research shows that the alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not be all that effective against the virus causing stomach flu,” the public health agency said.
In addition to washing hands, people can take the other following precautions to prevent spread of the disease:
· Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner. Dilute household bleach 1 to 10 in water, never use concentrated bleach.
· Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness. Use hot water and soap.
· Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
· Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.
According to Dr. Suda, “In general, this illness doesn’t cause serious long-term consequences in most healthy people.” Infants, young children, and persons who are unable to care for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly, are at risk for dehydration from loss of fluids. Immune-compromised persons are at risk for dehydration because they may get a more serious illness, with greater vomiting or diarrhea.
They may need to be hospitalized for treatment to correct or prevent dehydration. People should contact their health care provider if they have concerns.
For more information on norovirus go online to the Health Alliance’s Web site, www.cabarrushealth.org, or call the agency at 704-920-1213.