By Debra Moore
While Plumas County residents have been busy protecting themselves from coronavirus, the highly contagious Norovirus has been making the rounds. Anecdotally people have been sharing their experiences with each other and on social media, so Plumas News turned to local health experts for confirmation.
Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Satterfield said that there have been two confirmed cases in Quincy and a cluster in Eastern Plumas. Though that number could be much higher. Most people aren’t officially diagnosed.
“We wouldn’t test specifically for Noro unless somebody is hospitalized or in a skilled nursing facility,” Satterfield said.
Satterfield said that 75 percent of gastroenteritis is caused by Noro. “It’s everywhere and it’s very contagious,” he said. It can be particularly dangerous for the elderly.
Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines. This is called acute gastroenteritis.
According to the Centers for Disease, control the symptoms of Norovirus include stomach pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. It can also include fever, headache and body aches.
A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days. If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill, and vomit or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.
There is no specific treatment for Norovirus. Those who contract it should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration. If dehydration is suspected (infrequent urination, dizziness, or dry mouth and throat, was well as fussiness in children with few tears) contact a medical professional.
When asked why Norovirus is spreading now, especially with protocols still in place for coronavirus, Satterfield explained that while coronavirus is airborne, Norovirus is spread through contact. “And we’ve relaxed the emphasis on contact precautions (frequent cleaning of surfaces and hands) because COVID is on the wane and it’s a little less useful precaution there,” Satterfield said.
According to the CDC:
If you get norovirus illness, you can shed billions of norovirus particles that you can’t see without a microscope. Only a few norovirus particles can make other people sick. You are most contagious
- when you have symptoms of norovirus illness, especially vomiting, and
- during the first few days after you recover from norovirus illness.
Norovirus can easily contaminate food and water because it only takes a very small amount of virus particles to make you sick. Food and water can get contaminated with norovirus in many ways, including when:
- An infected person touches food with their bare hands that have feces (poop) or vomit particles on them
- Food is placed on a counter or surface that has feces or vomit particles on it
- Tiny drops of vomit from an infected person spray through the air and land on the food
So to prevent the spread during this outbreak, residents are encouraged to refocus on hand sanitizing and cleaning surfaces — very similar to the advice given for fighting coronavirus.
The CDC says to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
- especially after using the toilet or changing diapers,
- always before eating, preparing, or handling food, and
- before giving yourself or someone else medicine.
Norovirus can be found in your vomit or feces even before you start feeling sick. The virus can also stay in your feces for two weeks or more after you feel better. It is important to continue washing your hands often during this time.
You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in addition to hand washing, but you should not use hand sanitizer as a substitute for washing your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizers aren’t as effective as washing hands with soap and water at removing norovirus particles