Winter is in full force and with it comes the usual suspects – influenza and norovirus. This year, the region is seeing higher than normal numbers of cases of both viruses.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of norovirus or the flu and have concerns or questions on what to do, can access a number of resources.
Visit a doctor or call 811 – HealthLink BC – to speak to a nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are also a number of walk-in clinics across the Fraser Health region.
What is influenza?
The flu is a common seasonal infection of the airways and lungs that can spread easily from person to person.
The most common symptoms of the flu are a cough and fever that comes on quickly (not everyone will have a fever).
Other common symptoms are fatigue, achy body, sore throat, headache, lack of appetite, and a runny nose.
What is norovirus?
Norovirus is a gastrointestinal virus that is very contagious and can spread easily from person to person.
This year, a new strain of the virus is circulating and as most of the population does not have immunity to this strain, the health authority is seeing a higher number of cases in the communities and across all of our acute and residential care sites.
The symptoms of norovirus illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. In most healthy people, the diarrhea and vomiting usually last eight to 12 hours, and people normally recover in 48 hours.
What should I do if I get either virus?
The best thing to do if you get the flu or norovirus is to stay home, get rest, and drink plenty of liquids.
In the case of the norovirus, thoroughly clean contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness with hot, soapy water and then disinfect the area using a household disinfectant.
How can I protect myself?
People are urged to wash hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. This is very important for anyone who has recently been ill or in contact with an ill person. Coughing and sneezing into one’s arm, not hand, is also recommended.
Keep objects that many people touch clean, like doorknobs and television remote controls.
To maintain a strong body, mind and spirit, eat well and be active every day.
The best protection against influenza is a flu shot.
1. What are Noroviruses?
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. They are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. People exposed to the virus usually develop symptoms of illness within 24 to 48 hours, but symptoms can occur as early as 12 hours after exposure. People infected with norovirus can be contagious from before they start feeling ill to at least three days after they have recovered. Some people may be contagious for as long as two weeks after recovery.
This year a new strain of the virus is circulating, the Sydney strain, named after the city in which it was first detected. As the most of the population does not have immunity to this strain, the health authority is seeing a higher number of cases in the communities and across acute and residential care sites.
2. How do you get it?
People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including through direct contact with another person who is infected, for example, caring for or diapering an ill child, sharing food or eating utensils with an ill person, by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus like door handles, or by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated.
Noroviruses are easily spread in environments where people are in close contact.
3. What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of norovirus illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Sometimes, people may have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. The illness often begins suddenly, about 24 to 48 hours after exposure and the infected person may become very sick with frequent vomiting and/or diarrhea. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults.
4. How long do the symptoms last?
In most healthy people, the diarrhea and vomiting usually last eight to 12 hours, and people normally recover in 48 hours. Symptoms may last longer in some people. Most people feel better within one or two days, with symptoms resolving on their own and no long-term health effects occurring after illness.
5. What do you do when you get it?
There is no preventative treatment (no vaccine or antiviral medication) for noroviruses and they cannot be treated with antibiotics because antibiotics fight bacteria, not viruses. However, healthy people normally recover within one or two days, with symptoms resolving on their own.
Those suffering from illness should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration – a possible serious health effect of norovirus infection. Young children, the elderly, and people with other illnesses are at greatest risk for dehydration. It’s recommended to contact a health-care provider if it’s suspected that someone is dehydrated.
6. How can Norovirus be prevented:
There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of norovirus infections:
• Anyone who has symptoms should avoid contact with others until they are well again.
• Wash hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
• Thoroughly clean contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness with hot, soapy water and then disinfect the area using a household disinfectant.