A highly contagious virus is affecting millions of people across the country this winter season. The norovirus causes an infectious disease, acute gastroenteritis, which is causing some schools and companies to close.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can affect anyone. There are 19 to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis in the United States each year. “It only takes a very small amount of norovirus particles (fewer than 100) to make you sick,” reads their website.
The norovirus spreads quickly, easily and in multiple ways. Individuals can contract the disease by having direct contact with an infected person, sharing utensils or cups and consuming contaminated food or drinks.
Norovirus can remain on surfaces and objects for a significant amount of time and infect people for days or weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus can also survive certain disinfectants making it very difficult to get rid of.
“It is important to keep any area where food is consumed or prepared clean with a Clorox-based cleaner, since many cleaning products do not kill the norovirus,” said pharmacy student Felicia Snyder.
The common symptoms include nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea and throwing up. Individuals may also experience fever, headache or body aches. On average, a person typically develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the norovirus.
According to Health and Wellness Services, there have been approximately 10 suspected cases of norovirus on the Wilkes University campus so far.
Snyder said many of her friends and co-workers have taken some days off from school or work due to the norovirus.
“I am concerned for everyone on campus because viruses such as this can spread quickly when you have so many people in such close quarters,” Snyder said.
In attempt to prevent further outbreaks of the norovirus, the university has taken action, such as emails with information about the virus and signs throughout campus reminding students to wash their hands before each meal.
“I am very impressed with the precautions the dining hall and university is taking to prevent the spread of norovirus around campus as well as making the Wilkes community more aware and alert,” said pharmacy student Catherine Sarver. “I have noticed signs before entering the dining hall asking anyone eating at the dining hall to wash their hands before entering and when leaving.”
The dining hall has started wrapping fruit individually to prevent the spread of the virus. There are also hand sanitizing dispensers throughout the Student Union Building.
It is important to wash your hands properly, wash fruits and vegetables, cook seafood thoroughly, disinfect contaminated surfaces and wash laundry.
Always practice proper hand washing to prevent the spreading of germs. A good tip is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song while rubbing your hands together, scrubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Rinse your hands well under warm water and dry with a clean towel. Using paper towels or changing your hand towel frequently is suggested.
“I have been sure to wash my hands thoroughly after using the restroom, before eating and whenever I come in contact with someone who may possibly be infected,” Snyder said.
Students can do their part in combating this virus by educating others around them about it.
Sarver said a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was placed in every resident assistant’s mail box to hang up in their hall.
“Seeing the importance of precautions to prevent the spread of norovirus, I sent a picture of the fact sheet to all of my residents,” Sarver said.
Every year there are 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths because of the norovirus, according to the CDC. These numbers primarily involve children and elderly.
If a student becomes ill, “it is vital that you stay home until your symptoms resolve so you do not spread the virus to others,” Snyder said. It is also suggested to limit contact with other people for a minimum of 48 hours after you have recovered.
“Unfortunately, there is no specific medication that cures those suffering from the norovirus,” Snyder said. “For most cases, it is recommended to rest and hydrate. You can treat the symptoms with medications such as Imodium and Pepto-Bismol.”
To help the university prevent the norovirus from spreading, everyone can do their part by following the tips provided in the sidebar.
“With the semester starting to get busy, I know getting the norovirus is the last obstacle students want to face, so I want to do my part to help keep our campus healthy,” Sarver said.
For more information on the norovirus, students can visit www.cdc.gov/norovirus. Health and Wellness Services encourages anyone with questions or concerns to contact them at 570-408-4730.