Health officials: Take these steps to protect yourself from norovirus

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has identified norovirus increases and is urging Michigan residents to take precautions.

CADILLAC — Michigan health officials are warning residents of a virus that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has identified a rise in norovirus infections and is urging residents to take precautions, according to a news release.

Norovirus is the most common virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. It is very contagious and spreads easily from person to person.

People can become infected in several ways, including consuming contaminated food and drink; having direct contact with contaminated objects and people; touching their mouth before washing their hands.

“One of the most important steps a person can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others is keeping their hands clean,‘ said Dr. Jennifer Morse, medical director for District Health Department No. 10.

The best way to limit the spread of these viruses is frequent hand-washing for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm running water. The entire hand should be completely cleaned, even under the fingernails.

This is especially important after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.

Preventing the contamination of food, drinks, water and ice is also very important. People who have been sick with vomiting and diarrhea should not prepare or serve food to others for at least three days after their symptoms are gone. 

Norovirus often causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping, but infected people may also have a low-grade fever, headache, weakness and muscle aches.

The disease is usually not serious, and most people get better within one or two days and have no long-term health effects.

Sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replace what they lose from vomiting and diarrhea and can become dehydrated and need to see a doctor. This problem usually occurs only among the very young, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems. 

People working in day care centers or nursing homes should pay special attention to children or residents who have norovirus symptoms, as the virus can spread quickly there.

Doreen Byrne, the health department’s communicable disease coordinator, said there have not been any norovirus increases in Wexford and Missaukee counties and no reported outbreaks in schools or nursing homes.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent norovirus and hand sanitizers are ineffective against the virus. Outbreaks happen throughout the year but occur most often from November to April.