Letter to the Editor, March 8, 2017: Norovirus Awareness

By Nicole Khvilivitzky

I am a candidate for a master’s in nursing as a family nurse practitioner, as well as a long-time resident of Bedford. As a school nurse for the LABBB Educational Collaborative program, I am writing to you to express my concern about an important health topic that is currently affecting many members of the community and that I strongly believe the public should be made aware of.

The norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that affects the gastrointestinal tract and is most commonly seen during the winter months of the year. It is easily transmissible through contaminated food or water, infected surfaces, contact with other infected people, and touching one’s face after exposure. Those with the norovirus are most contagious when experiencing the symptoms of the illness and during the first few days of the recovery process.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization initial symptoms of the norovirus include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Fever, headaches, and body or muscle aches may also soon develop after an infection has occurred. Symptoms may develop as soon as 12 hours after exposure, and the virus may take up to 3 days to recover from.

One of the most common complications of the norovirus is dehydration and signs include decreased urination, dry mouth, and dizziness upon standing. Those infected with the norovirus should be sure to drink ample amounts of fluids, preferably those with added electrolytes such as sports drinks or pediatric rehydration solutions, to compensate for the fluid loss experienced during the infection. If severe dehydration is suspected, the primary care provider should be notified, and the person in question may need to be hospitalized for intravenous fluid replacement.

Unfortunately, there is no established treatment for the norovirus. However, there are many ways to help prevent the norovirus from spreading within the community. These include performing proper hand hygiene with soap and water for at least 30 seconds, washing foods thoroughly before consumption, maintaining isolation from others when infected, disinfecting contaminated surfaces with household items such as Lysol, and immediately washing clothes or linens that have come into contact with fluids from an infected individual. Please visit the following link for more information: https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/preventing-infection.html

I urge you to share this information with the members of our community. Though children and elderly are considered higher risk populations, the norovirus can infect anyone if given the opportunity. I truly believe that knowledge is power and that our community must take preventive measures to maintain its health as the winter season continues.

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