Beware of norovirus
Vomiting and diarrhea are not the most pleasant things to talk about but they are a part of life and can affect the entire campus community.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses (Norwalk included) that cause gastroenteritis in people and they are both prevalent on campus and highly contagious. Therefore, even if a person has mild symptoms, they should not be attending class or coming to work.
Symptoms of norovirus illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. People may also experience a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. The illness often begins suddenly, about 24 to 48 hours after exposure.
Treatment of a norovirus illness is to essentially let it run its course, as antibiotics are not effective in treating the illness. During the 48 hours of the height of the illness, only liquids should be encouraged (such as flat ginger ale, water, herbal tea with lots of honey or sugar). Drink diluted fruit juices or bottled water at a rate of 250-500 ml per hour while diarrhea persists. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Plain fluids are fine but you can also use a recipe for a homemade oral rehydration formula or drink commercial solutions (such as Pedialyte or Gastrolyte). Extra salt can also be used to replace lost electrolytes.
While sick, it is important to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables or fatty/spicy foods, as they may be hard to digest. Some people also temporarily avoid dairy products. Once 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.
Precautions should be taken to avoid spreading this highly contagious illness. 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.
Students and staff with symptoms are asked not to attend class or work for the two days of an illness plus 48 hours after symptoms cease, out of courtesy to the people around them who may not have a strong immune system and to avoid contaminating public/shared toilets. It cannot be emphasized enough — please do not use public or shared washrooms while ill and please wash your hands frequently for the time of illness plus several weeks after the illness (as the virus continues to live in the bowel).
So, I hope you don’t get this contagious illness, but if you do, please follow the above guidelines and recover quickly!
If you have questions, you can call the Health Centre at 403-329-2484.
Lori Weber is the manager of the University of Lethbridge Health Centre