ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) - Several outbreaks of Norovirus in nursing homes and other facilities prompted Montgomery county officials to issue a warning, urging people to practice good hygiene in order to prevent further spreading of the virus. Norovirus is an intestinal virus that causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, County Health Officer said in a statement, "Winter is a time when illnesses such as norovirus can spread in nursing homes and other large facilities where people live closely together. Nororvirus is highly contagious and outbreaks often increase in the winter and spring."
County officials are observing a higher number of cases, earlier in the season than in past years. Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county government, said that health officials are investigating outbreaks in several nursing homes, and are concerned because there had been other outbreaks linked to holiday luncheons and wedding receptions. Anderson said county officials were aware of 70-75 cases in the past several weeks.
Health officials stress that hand-washing is the key to helping to contain the spread of viruses. Norovirus can spread rapidly in the air when people vomit, and also spreads when people fail to wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, or after changing a diaper, and then touch food or touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches and handrails.
Norovirus can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Individuals who become ill from the virus may also have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and may also experience fatigue. Treatment includes getting rest and replacing fluids.
While the symptoms are quite unpleasant, the illness is usually not serious for most people. But Norovirus can be serious for frail, elderly and very young people because of the risk of dehydration. Although people may only feel sick for a day or two, small amounts of the virus can cause infections, and can live on surfaces for many days. Those who are ill may also continue to spread the virus for as long as a week or more after they begin to feel better.
Long-term care facilities are being advised to limit visits with residents who are ill, and to have visitors wash hands before and after a visit.
Written by Bill Starks