The Bell County Health District is warning of an uptick in cases of norovirus.
Lacey Sanders, a disease surveillance coordinator for the district, said she has seen an increase in the virus in the last four weeks, as well as norovirus outbreaks reported at three long-term care facilities in the last 10 days.
Norovirus is often referred to as a “stomach flu” or “24-hour bug,” Sanders said. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
“We have seen a marked increase in emergency room visits for vomiting/diarrhea seen through our syndromic surveillance systems located at local hospitals,” Sanders said.
Many of the cases are located in the Temple and Belton area. None has been reported in Harker Heights, but Sanders said the virus has the potential to spread quickly.
“It’s very contagious,” she said.
The virus can be spread by eating contaminated foods or drinking contaminated liquids, touching contaminated surfaces or objects, then putting your fingers in your mouth, or having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. It causes 19-21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths. Norovirus is also the most common cause of food-borne-disease outbreaks in the United States.
Information from the CDC advises the best way to prevent norovirus is to practice proper hand-washing, food handling and “general cleanliness.”
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