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COUNTY: Gastrointestinal Illness On the Rise


IMAGE: Norovirus, Wikipedia Commons.

The Washoe County Health District is reporting that gastrointestinal illness is on the rise in throughout the Truckee Meadows.

According to health officials, the Health District has been busy investigating numerous illnesses which could be avoided if people practice good hygiene, proper cleaning methods and stay home when sick.

Different viruses can cause gastroenteritis, but noroviruses are responsible for the majority of cases and have triggered outbreaks in Washoe County in recent years.

In late 2012, hundreds of school children were sickened by gastrointestinal illness which eventually subsided when schools closed for Christmas break and extensive thorough cleanings were conducted.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or abdominal cramping.  Sometimes headache, fever and body aches are also present.  Symptoms usually last 24 to 72 hours and those infected usually make a full recovery. Basic treatment consists of rest and drinking fluids.  Some people experience symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization, usually for rehydration.

The bacteria and viruses that cause gastrointestinal illnesses enter the body through the mouth.  They live in the digestive tract and are excreted in feces and can be easily transmitted through person-to-person contact; in food and beverages; and on environmental surfaces and objects contaminated with human feces.

How to avoid illness:

  • Follow effective hand washing procedures.
  • Use warm water and soap, and wash hands for at least 20 seconds every time after using the restroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
  • After washing, dry hands with a clean, disposable towel and use the towel to turn off the faucet to avoid recontamination.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Cook seafood thoroughly.

If you become ill, stay home from work, school, daycare and social activities until the symptoms have ended.  While ill and for at least 3 days after symptoms stop, you should not prepare food for others. This can protect others from becoming exposed.

INFORMATION: Visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.

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