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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 23, 2010

DHEC investigating upswing in Norovirus cases statewide

COLUMBIA, S.C. -Since early January the S.C Department of Health and Environmental Control has been investigating more than twice the usual number of diarrheal outbreaks reported across the state, the agency announced today.

“These illnesses have occurred in a wide variety of institutional settings including schools, nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” said Jerry Gibson, M.D., state epidemiologist and director of DHEC’s Bureau of Disease Control. “Most of the illnesses have been caused by Norovirus and this significant increase is similar to what is occurring across the nation.”

Dr. Gibson said symptoms of Norovirus include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Sometimes symptoms can include a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. Most people show symptoms within 48 hours of exposure to Norovirus, with the illness typically lasting one to two days.

“Norovirus is very infectious and easily spreads from person to person, shedding might continue for two weeks after recovery,” Dr. Gibson said. “Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water is the most effective way to stop transmission of illness from person to person. Commonly handled surfaces such as bathroom sink hardware, door knobs and handrails can become contaminated by the unwashed hands of an ill person and further spread the illness. However, effective cleaning measures can easily stop the transmission of disease.”

Dr. Gibson said cleaning guidelines for institutions experiencing a diarrheal outbreak have been posted on DHEC’s Web site (pdf).

“We’ve has increased our surveillance efforts across the state and we’re working with schools, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other partner organizations and institutional settings to create awareness about Norovirus and what you can do to control transmission,” Dr. Gibson said.

According to Dr. Gibson, anyone experiencing diarrhea is encouraged to stay home from work or school and wash their hands often to reduce the spread of disease. Most cases of Norovirus will resolve without medical treatment but individuals are encouraged to contact their private medical provider if symptoms persist. The public can also inform DHEC about outbreaks by calling their local DHEC public health department.

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For more information:
Adam Myrick - (803) 898-3884
E-mail - myrickar@dhec.sc.gov
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