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California Health Officials Report 32 Norovirus Outbreaks since October

Update Date: Jan 01, 2016 10:25 AM EST

California has been hit hard by norovirus this fall and winter.

According to the California Department of Health, there have been 32 outbreaks involving this virus, which is also known as the "winter vomiting disease" because an infection can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Symptoms can develop between 12 and 48 hours after exposure and can last from one to three days.

"We know it's frequently common in the winter months and there's different strains of the virus sometimes that are more aggressive in one year than the next so," Dr. Gil Chaves with the CDPH said reported by CBS Sacramento.

The officials stated that the outbreaks most likely led to "hundreds of reported sicknesses in the state." Experts noted that the bug, which has typically been associated with cruise ships, has been spreading at very fast rates on land.

Norovirus is highly contagious. People can catch it if they come into contact with a contaminated surface, eat infected food or share saliva with an infected person. To lower one's risk, people are recommended to wash their hands with soap thoroughly. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not effective in killing norovirus.

After washing hands under running water for 20 seconds, experts advise people to use paper towels when they open doors or close faucets.

Since the infection is viral, it is not treatable via antibiotics. Contrary to what some people believe, the flu vaccine does not protect people from norovirus. There is currently no norovirus vaccine. 

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