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California Norovirus Outbreaks Are Rising

Update Date: Dec 28, 2015 09:28 AM EST

There is an outbreak of norovirus cases in California, with 32 cases having been confirmed since October. Last year, at this time, just nine outbreaks were reported, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

This infection, known in common parlance as stomach flu, is the source of gastroenteritis in the U.S., leading from 19 to 21 million cases annually and 570 to 800 people dying from it every year. The infection often takes place from November to April, according to the CDPH.

The illness is indicated by "abdominal pain, diarrhea, low-grade fever, body aches, nausea and headache", according to HNGN.

"It's very readily transmissible," Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine told The Los Angeles Times."That also contributes to the nursing home outbreaks, because those people are all confined and so they get repeated exposure to people who are sick or who are going to be sick or have recovered from sickness and are still capable of transmitting the virus."

Sometimes the virus can lead to vomiting among patients, which is why it is also called winter vomiting disease. If a victim is exposed to it, you can see the symptoms just 12 to 48 hours later, which hangs on the patient from one to three days.

Being highly contagious, the disease can spread quickly in "crowded and closed environments like cruise ships, schools, hospitals, daycare centers and nursing homes". Recently, the outbreaks took place in nursing homes and schools.

While the illness is spread through direct contact, contaminated food or surface, some patients continue to harbour the contagion even two weeks after recovering from it.

"One of the most important things you can do to avoid norovirus and other illnesses this holiday season is to wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds," Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer said. "This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food. Hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus."

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