No confirmed cases here of Norwalk virus

FORT FRANCES—The Northwestern Health Unit is advising area residents that there has been a greater than usual number of outbreaks of illness caused by Norwalk-like viruses in institutions, including schools, child care centres, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
“This time of year is when that illness makes its rounds,” environmental health officer Al Mathers said Thursday morning.
While Mathers added he’s not aware of any confirmed cases in the Fort Frances area, there have been elsewhere, such as a recent outbreak at a Dryden Day Care which had to be closed down for a few days.
“The thing about Norwalk is it’s difficult to get a confirmation as to what it is,” Mathers remarked, noting the virus spreads quickly and only lasts for a maximum of two days.
When a sample is sent away for testing, the infected person’s symptoms are gone by the time the test results come back.
“You just basically make the determination based on symptoms,” said Mathers, who added the simplest step to preventing Norwalk virus infection is for people to wash their hands.
Local public health officer Brian Norris said he also wasn’t aware of any confirmed cases in the Fort Frances area, but added “to have some cases wouldn’t be uncommon.”
“It shows up every year,” he said, noting Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses are common—and often mistaken by people as the ’flu.
Only in more recent years has this gastrointestinal illness (or “stomach ’flu”) become more well-known under the name “Norwalk.”
Norwalk-like viruses are a common cause of gastroenteritis, and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, chills, and fever. The illness is easily spread from person-to-person via hand-to-mouth transmission.
Generally the illness is short-lived, lasting 24-48 hours, and resolves without requiring medical treatment. However, in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, there is an increased risk of more serious complications.
The Norwalk virus is passed from the stool of infected persons, with people getting infected by swallowing stool-contaminated food or water.
Symptoms usually appear one-two days after swallowing contaminated food or water.
As mentioned, the best defence against the Norwalk virus is regular, thorough hand washing.
The virus first was identified in 1972 after an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in Norwalk, Ohio. Later, other viruses with similar features were described and called Norwalk-like viruses.
Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses are found worldwide. Humans are the only known hosts.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)

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