California health officials announced this week an excessive uptick in the number of “winter vomiting disease” or norovirus cases from prior years.The California Department of Public Health confirmed that 32 outbreaks of the virus in the past three months have lead to likely hundreds of sicknesses across the state. The volume of outbreaks “far exceed the number reported at this time in 2014.”
The CDPH describes norovirus as, “a highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis, an illness that usually involves vomiting and diarrhea.” The sickness is credited as the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S. Yearly cases result in between 570 and 800 deaths in the country according to the health agency. The average number of cases per year sits around 20 million.
Spread of the virus occurs rapidly with crowded environments most vulnerable. Examples to watch out for included, “hospitals, nursing homes, daycare centers, schools, cruise ships and food service settings like restaurants.”
Those that have been sick can still spread the virus two weeks after recovering.
“One of the most important things you can do to avoid norovirus and other illnesses this holiday season is to wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds,” Dr. Smith said. “This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food. Hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus.”
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana