Help prevent the spread of Norovirus in our community

February 28, 2012 - Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting an increased incidence at local hospitals of people with stomach flu symptoms, often associated with Norovirus, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. At this time of year, increased cases of Norovirus circulate in the community and can affect schools, hospitals, day care centres and long term care facilities, and anywhere groups of people gather. To avoid infection with Norovirus, we recommend the following: 

  • Wash your hands frequently 
  • Stay home from school or work if you are ill 
  • Avoid visiting people in hospital or long-term care homes when ill 

If you think you have Norovirus, the following will help you and help prevent others from getting sick with Norovirus: 

  • Stay home and rest for at least 24 hours after your vomiting/diarrhea have resolved and you feel well 
  • Do not prepare or handle food that will be eaten by others 

Local hospitals are also trying to reduce the chance of cases coming through the Emergency Department. If you are experiencing typical flu-like symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, please do not visit the Emergency Department unless you feel it is necessary to get care there. We recommend you drink lots of fluids and see your family doctor if your symptoms last longer than three days or if you have bloody diarrhea or a high fever.

In order to limit transmission of the virus in hospitals and to reduce the chance of further spread, the following infection control measures have been implemented in several area hospitals: 

  • Additional housekeeping measures 
  • Prompt identification and isolation of symptomatic patients 
  • Increased promotion of hand hygiene 

Norovirus is a well known "Small round-structured virus" that circulates rapidly through groups of people. It is transmitted by direct contact with the virus, either through contaminated hands, or possibly through droplet spread during vomiting. It can also be transmitted in contaminated food and drink, and ingested directly. It takes less than 100 virus particles to result in illness (it has been suggested that it may take as few as ten virus particles), and so infection is easily transmitted from person to person. 

The main symptoms of Norovirus infection begin approximately 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. A low grade fever may occur and dehydration is possible. The illness usually lasts from one day to three days; however, Norovirus can be spread for up to three days after the symptoms stop, and some people may carry the virus for up to two weeks after the symptoms end.