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Norovirus attacks the Bay Area

Viral gastroenteritis aka norovirus aka “the stomach bug” has been spreading through the Bay Area at a record-setting rate.

Thirty schools in Contra Costa County alone have reported suspected cases. Alameda County’s norovirus cases have nearly tripled since last year, and San Mateo County has had 18 gastrointestinal outbreaks with nine confirmed as norovirus.

Earlier this month, St. Ignatius high school in The City closed for three days due to a mass outbreak at the school. Hundreds of the 1,400 students at the school came down with the bug.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the most common symptoms of the norovirus as diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. While most people get better within a few days, the real danger — other than puking your guts out — is the risk of dehydration.

One of the best ways to prevent infection is by washing your hands often with soap and water, since alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill the bug.

No vaccine or cure for the virus exists, so those infected are simply encouraged to drink enough liquids to prevent dehydration caused by their vomiting and diarrhea.

The CDC warns that people can remain contagious up to two weeks after their symptoms disappear.

How to protect yourself:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water. Alcohol-based sanitizers often don’t kill the virus
  • Promptly disinfect contaminated surfaces with a bleach solution (about 1/3 cup bleach to one gallon of water)
  • If someone vomits, disinfect all surfaces within a 25-foot radius and discard any food in the area.
  • Wear gloves when cleaning soiled surfaces
  • Wash soiled clothing and linens as soon as possible
  • Stay home during the illness and at least two days after symptoms disappear
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