Stomach Flu (Norovirus)
1. It is known that Norovirus (which is really 50+ types of virus that can cause stomach flu - for example Norwalk is one type of norovirus) can cause gastro-intestinal upsets to large numbers of people. Illnesses such as norovirus are taken very seriously at the University of Lethbridge.
2. In the case of norovirus- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping occur. Most norovirus illnesses last 48 hours but illness can occur for 2-7 days. The person should be STAYING AT HOME (NOT USING PUBLIC TOILETS!!!!) and dealing with the nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or abdominal pain. A person can seek medical care IF they believe they are dehydrated, the symptoms become more severe over time, or if a medical condition affects their ability to fight infections. Most people are told to STAY home, maintain hydration, maintain cleanliness of their shared bathrooms and kitchen items and wait for symptoms to decrease on their own. Antibiotics are NOT effective for Norovirus. Dehydration can occur with prolonged episodes of symptoms where the person is unable to keep any fluids in their system; they begin to feel weak and their skin can be loose, and they may need to go to hospital for intravenous fluids to rehydrate.
3. However, most people experience a short period of misery, (called mild symptoms), sleep then slowly begin to feel better. Trying to keep fluids down is important. Ill people should not be attending class /work AND DEFINITELY NOT USING PUBLIC TOILETS. Be aware that most viruses remain HIGHLY contagious until 48 hours after signs and symptoms cease. Students with symptoms are asked not to attend class for the 2-7 days of an illness OR 48 hours after symptoms cease. No public washrooms should be used while they are ill and HANDWASHING frequently is a must. For shared toilets in a home, the person should be cleaning the toilet after every use.
4. You can call the University of Lethbridge Health Centre at 403.329.2484 leaving your name, student identification number, your phone number and description of your illness if you require illness notes. Illness notes will be provided to you once you are feeling better and back in class. Unless you believe yourself to be dehydrated, seeing a physician is not always necessary.
5. Proper hand washing should be frequent and continue for weeks after your illness-- the virus can still be present in stool for 2-3 weeks after an illness; therefore, careful hand washing and attention to cleanliness must occur for weeks after an illness.
6. If you are ill, you should be washing all food handling surfaces and/or toilet facilities with a household bleach based cleaner or 1:10 bleach/water solution at least once per day, if not more often. Soiled clothing (from stool or vomitus) must also be cleaned using hot water and chlorine based clothing soaps. Norovirus is extremely communicable through viral particles which can be present in toilets or on surfaces (if a person who is ill does not wash their hands well after toileting).
7. You can call Healthlink at 1-866-408-5465 if you have questions. You may be directed to the Hospital Emergency unit if you believe yourself to be dehydrated, or the illness is severe. Remember, general treatment includes rest, anti-emetics such as Gravol (pill or suppository), and lots of liquids (such as flat ginger ale, water, herbal tea with lots of honey or sugar). During the 48 hours of the height of the illness, liquids only should be encouraged. Drink 250-500 ml per hour while diarrhea persists. Drink diluted fruit juices or bottled water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Plain fluids are fine but you can also use a recipe for home made oral rehydration formula or drink commercial solutions (such as pedialyte, or gastrolyte). You can use extra salt while ill to replace lost electrolytes. Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables or fatty/spicy foods as they may be hard to digest while ill. Some people also temporarily avoid dairy products.
8. Once the vomiting has ceased, eat small, frequent meals when able. Bland, low fibre, soft foods (soups, white bread/toast, oatmeal, bananas, and white rice) may be introduced back into the diet once the illness has passed its peak.