Public Health warns of possible norovirus outbreak

Virus produces flu-like symptoms lasting up to three days

OKANOGAN – Okanogan County Public Health has released a bulletin saying that it is receiving numerous reports of a stomach illness most likely caused by the norovirus.

Symptoms of norovirus usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Those infected begin to become ill about 24 – 48 hours after swallowing or breathing in the virus. The sickness is usually brief, lasting only one to three days. This virus is most commonly spread by eating contaminated foods or liquids, touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then placing hands in mouth, or having direct contact with a person who is infected and showing symptoms.

In order to prevent the spread of this virus in the home (and at school), Public Health suggests following these basic prevention strategies:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before handling food or ice.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before eating.
  • Refrain from food handling duties if currently ill and for two days after diarrhea and vomiting have stopped.
  • Discard foods that have been handled or prepared by someone who is, or has recently had, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Promptly clean and disinfect any surfaces that become soiled with vomit or diarrhea.

To disinfect hard surfaces use soap and water to clean the surface first and then disinfect the clean surface with a freshly made one-tenth bleach solution (one and a half cups of bleach to one gallon of water).

Hand washing with soap and warm water is the most effective way to remove norovirus from the hands and should be used when caring for a person with suspected or known norovirus. Hand sanitizers should not be used as a substitute for soap and water because they do not kill norovirus.

Those with questions or concerns should contact Mike Harr at (509) 422-7155 or Lauri Jones at (509) 422-7158