North Carolina DHHS issues warning about norovirus

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recently alerted healthcare providers and the public of multiple outbreaks that appear to be caused by norovirus, a common cause of gastrointestinal illness.

The DHHS confirmed at least one of the outbreaks was caused by norovirus and issued the alert to protect the public and make providers aware of symptoms to avoid viral transmission. Symptoms of norovirus illness include stomach cramping, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Some individuals may have fatigue, muscle aches, headache, chills and fever.

Norovirus is commonly seen during the winter months.

"Noroviruses are very hard to kill," Robin Cummings, the acting state health director, said. "As with most viruses, the most important way to prevent the spread of illness is by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus."

Norovirus is secreted in the stools and vomit of infected individuals during illness and for a few days after recovery. People can get sick through direct contact with the infected individual, by touching contaminated surfaces, by drinking contaminated liquids or by eating contaminated foods.

Public health experts recommend that individuals protect themselves from norovirus by washing their hands frequently with soap and water, cleaning up diarrhea and vomit immediately and not preparing food for others to eat until at least 48 hours after recovery from illness.