Stomach flu hits Juneau

Experts say best defense against norovirus is frequent hand washing

Posted: Friday, December 22, 2006

A gastrointestinal illness called norovirus has been making the rounds in Juneau this week, experts at Bartlett Regional Hospital said Thursday.

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The stomach flu strikes suddenly and lasts 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also be accompanied by headache, fever and cramps.

The symptoms may appear 12 to 72 hours after exposure; people remain contagious for several days after the symptoms disappear.

"There is no magic bullet," said Jan Beauchamp, infection control manager at the hospital. "No medicine will stave off or cure the disease, so coming to the emergency room may only serve to spread the infection."

Most people recover in two to three days. Persons with other complications or those suffering from dehydration may need to seek medical treatment.

People can become infected by consuming contaminated food or liquids; touching contaminated surfaces or objects, then putting their hand to their mouth; or having direct contact with an infected person.

The best defense is frequent hand washing, especially after using the bathroom, prior to handling food, and after contact with a sick person.

"Those who come down with the virus are recommended to stay home, get plenty of rest, avoid infecting other people, and take fluids as tolerated," said Beauchamp.

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