Norovirus in Montana
Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, including Montana. More than half of all reported outbreaks are gastroenteritis outbreaks, but nearly 2/3 of deaths have been the result of outbreaks where norovirus was suspected or confirmed. This is partially due to the fact that most of these outbreaks occur in long term care settings (57%) followed by assisted living facilities (18%), where vulnerable populations reside close together.
Similar to influenza, norovirus illnesses and associated outbreaks often occur during the winter season. Norovirus outbreaks are reportable in Montana and if samples were collected, they are tested to look for any new strains, as those can have a more severe impact on the general population. A new strain of norovirus emerged in March 2012 and has been the predominant strain (78%) in Montana since then.
What is Norovirus?
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 1 to 3 days. The illness can last longer and be more severe in young children, older persons, or persons who have other health conditions.
How is Norovirus transmitted?
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.
How to prevent Norovirus infection?
Follow the 5 main tips to prevent the spread of Norovirus:
Practice proper hand hygiene: Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.
Take care in the kitchen: Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
Do not prepare food while ill: People who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.
Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces: After an episode of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a solution made by adding 5–25 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of water [Calculations based on 5.25% bleach concentration].
Wash laundry thoroughly: Immediately remove clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or fecal matter and wash with detergent at the maximum length available cycle, then machine dry. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus.
Review the DPHHS Norovirus Outbreak Management and Disease Prevention Guidelines for everyone.
Where can I learn more about norovirus?
Visit CDC’s comprehensive website featuring factsheets, videos, statistics and more. Please contact your local health department for questions and reporting issues.
Learn more about norovirus by clicking on your area of interest and specialized guidance.