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Norovirus on the Rise

Robin Carver, RN

Robin Carver, RN, serves as WakeMed’s director of infection control.

According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health (NCDPH), there has been a recent increase in gastrointestinal illness across the state due to norovirus. Highly contagious, this virus can infect someone who ingests only 10 particles of virus.  That is smaller than the head of a pin.  For example, it usually takes about 100,000 colonies of a bacteria to quantify an infection. 

Norovirus begins suddenly and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Sometimes, people may also feel tired and experience a low fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. It is contracted in areas of close contact, most commonly in long-term care facilities, schools and restaurants, especially those with buffets. This has commonly been referred to as the “cruise-ship” virus. The NCDPH warns that norovirus is spread by direct person-to-person contact or the ingestion of fecally contaminated food or water.

Protection is relatively easy, but you must be diligent. Strict hand washing with warm water and soap remains the number one way to avoid norovirus. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not effective. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially after using the restroom and before eating.  It is also important to note that norovirus is not killed with regular household cleaners.  A solution of bleach and water is the best defense.  More information on norovirus can be found on the NCDPH Web site.

Update March 1, 1:00 pm:  In case you missed it, Robin Carver did an interview with NBC 17 on Friday all about Norovirus.