Nebraska health officials want residents to take precautions against norovirus. The Douglas County Health Department reports nine outbreaks in December that occurred in nursing homes, a homeless shelter, a day care and a health care facility that affected several hundred people.
Dr. Anne O’Keefe is the department’s senior epidemiologist and says it is a virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, fever, headache and body aches. There typically is a rapid onset and there are many strains. The virus changes constantly so the body’s immune system cannot build an immunity to it and that is why there are so many outbreaks each year.
Dr. O’Keefe says, “It is very contagious and the virus can live for quite a while on surfaces. You have to ingest this virus to get sick.”
Health officials say the best preventative measures include hand washing with soap and water – especially before handling food, eating food, changing diapers and using the restroom. It is important to avoid preparing food for others when you are sick and wash laundry thoroughly. It is also important to sanitize surfaces to avoid spreading the virus.