Posted: Apr 24, 2013 11:04 AM by MTN News
Updated: Apr 24, 2013 11:26 AM
HELENA - Health officials say they've been seeing an unusually high number of outbreaks of gastroenteritis in Montana, sometimes referred to as the "stomach flu."
The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) reports that 20 outbreaks have sickened nearly 500 people throughout the state since the beginning of the year, more than twice the number of outbreaks usually reported by this time of the year.
Many of the outbreaks have been reported in people who live in assisted living and nursing homes, who are often the most at risk of complications from this infection.
Noroviruses are the most common of the viruses that cause gastroenteritis. The usual symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. There is no specific treatment for this illness and most individuals recover in one to three days.
The illness can last longer and be more severe in young children, older people, or people who have other health conditions.
The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly. A person can become ill by ingesting the virus from contaminated food or water or by close contact with someone who is ill.
Touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated with norovirus, and then transferring the virus hand to mouth is another common way of becoming infected.
"Norovirus can spread very quickly and can make some people very ill," DPHHS director Richard Opper said. "To protect yourself and others it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often, stay at home if you are ill with diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea, and never prepare food for others if you are sick with any of these symptoms."
The DPPHS offers these tips to help prevent the spread of norovirus.
More information is also available on the DPHHS website.