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March, 2006

Norovirus

The West Coast District Health Board and Community and Public Health today urged those who have or who are recovering from a gastrointestinal illness currently going around the region to take simple precautions to stop the spread of infection.

Norovirus, the suspected cause of this current outbreak of vomiting and diarrhoea, is highly contagious. While a short-lived nuisance for otherwise healthy people, it can be very serious for those with other medical conditions.

West Coast Medical Officer of Health Dr Cheryl Brunton said people with gastrointestinal illness should take particular care washing and drying their hands after using the toilet, and they shouldn't prepare food for others until they are properly well. They should also stay at home until they had been symptom free for at least 48 hours.

Symptoms of norovirus infection are vomiting (often projectile), stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea and lack of energy. Dr Brunton said the onset of symptoms could be rapid with most people becoming ill within 24 hours of exposure. Symptoms can last between 24 and 60 hours.

She said the illness could spread rapidly through communities and particularly in institutions such as schools or hospitals. ."That's why it's so important that people who have it don't return to work or school until they are properly well. You can still be infectious when you are starting to feel better"

The DHB also urged people who had a gastrointestinal illness not to visit any of its facilities until they had been symptom free for 48-hours.

The DHB was keen to emphasise that people who are already ill or in hospital are those who can least afford to contract an illness such as norovirus infection.

People who have concerns can ring Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.

For more information please contact
Vikki Carter
Community Liaison Officer
03 768 0499, Extn. 2665
027 245 9595

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