State health department warns residents of 'stomach bug' - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

State health department warns residents of 'stomach bug'

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Though this season's flu bug may be on the wane in Illinois, the state Department of Public Health is alerting residents to be aware of and take precautions against norovirus, also referred to as a "stomach bug."

Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea and is very contagious, a release from the Department of Public Health said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 80 percent of norovirus outbreaks occur from November to April. The CDC estimates that more than 20 million people, or about one in every 15 Americans, are infected with norovirus.

"Norovirus is the most common cause of stomach illness in the country," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said. "However, the easiest way to avoid becoming ill is to wash your hands. Viruses can contaminate surfaces and objects touched by someone who is ill. If your hand then comes in contact with your mouth, chances are you will end up becoming ill."

Norovirus can spread quickly from person to person in crowded places like schools, long-term care

facilities and daycare centers, according to the health department. A person who is ill and prepares or serves catered meals or food in restaurant can contaminate food, causing others to become ill.

Symptoms of norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping.

Other, less common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and general sense of fatigue.

Norovirus illness is usually not serious and most people are better in a day or two, the release said. But norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly and people with other health conditions. According to the CDC, norovirus causes more than 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Tips for avoiding norovirus include: Frequently wash your hands, especially after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food; thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces immediately using a bleach-based cleaner, and not working as a food handler while you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting.

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