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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Stomach bug: Patients flock to ER with Norovirus symptoms

  • In the past two weeks, the emergency room at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital and the Urgent Care Center have seen about 100 patients with symptoms possibly associated with the Norovirus, often called “the stomach bug.”
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    In the past two weeks, the emergency room at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital and the Urgent Care Center have seen about 100 patients with symptoms possibly associated with the Norovirus, often called “the stomach bug.”
     
    The virus can cause vomiting, nausea, cramps, fever and even dehydration.
     
    “Most people feel better in a day or two, but it can be concerning for the elderly or very young,” said Carla Tollett, marketing director for St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital. “People who have Norovirus are very contagious from the time they first start feeling ill until at least 48 hours after their last bout of diarrhea.”
     
    While the numbers reflect those complaining from those types of symptoms at the ER, it doesn’t account for those who may have visited individual doctors when sick, or those who didn’t seek any medical attention.
     
    Tollett said Norovirus outbreaks are most common during winter months when people are spending more time together indoors.
     
    According to The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. That inflammation leads to diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
     
    Norovirus illness, which is often called food poisoning and stomach flu, is not related to the flu, which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus. Each year, Norovirus causes about 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S., and each year, Norovirus causes about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, mostly in young children and the elderly.
     
    Norovirus spreads very easily and quickly, the CDC reports, as it only takes a very small amount of Norovirus particles — fewer than 100 — to make someone sick.
     
    But something very simple can help prevent the spread of Norovirus —washing hands often.
     
    “Be sure to wash for 20 seconds or more, especially before eating, before preparing food, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers,” she said.
     
    If someone is ill, they shouldn’t prepare food for others, she said, and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces after someone is ill can help stop the virus from spreading to others.
     
    The CDC reports Norovirus can spread to others by:
    • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with Norovirus
    • Touching surfaces or objects that have Norovirus on them then putting your fingers in your mouth
    Page 2 of 2 - • Having close personal contact with an infected person, such as those caring for a person, sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with an infected person.
     
    The CDC says there’s no vaccine to prevent Norovirus infection and no drug to treat it. Someone with the illness should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration. Someone who becomes dehydrated from the illness should call a doctor.
     
     
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