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Winter Vomiting Disease Rising in State

The Virginia Department of Health reported Dec. 17 that cases of norovirus, or "winter vomiting disease" are on the rise in the state.

Winter vomiting disease is a seasonal, gastrointestinal disease that occurs more often in the winter and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and occasionally a headache and low-grade fever, according to the department of health.

Symptoms last between two to three days without serious or long-term health effects, and outbreaks often cause a high amount of absences especially in schools and daycare.

State Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube warns those infected with the disease need to stay hydrated and the illness can become serious — especially in infants and those who cannot care for themselves — if they are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what is lost through vomiting or diarrhea.

The department of health reports norovirus is present in the stool and vomit of infected people and is spread primarily through person-to-person contact.

Any child who is vomiting or has diarrhea, or any health care workers and persons who handle food should not go to daycare or work while sick and should stay out for at least three days after symptoms subside.

According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is also a common cause of foodborne illness. A person with the illness can contaminate food during preparation or serving, but unlike many foodborne germs, infected people are the only source for norovirus.

To prevent the spread of norovirus the following precautions should be taken:

* Wash your hands frequently.

* People who are sick should not prepare, serve or handle food for others, which can spread the virus.

* People who work in direct patient care and child and elder care should not work when they have a gastrointestinal illness and should remain home from work for three days after symptoms end.

* Promptly disinfect contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners.

* Promptly wash soiled articles of clothing.

Additional information on norovirus is available on the Virginia Department of Health's Web site at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epi/norovirusf.pdf.