Norwalk Virus in Bay County

By: Alana Adams
By: Alana Adams

It's becoming the main cause of food borne disease in the U.S., this Norovirus, also called the Norwalk Virus, has struck Bay County twice in the past year.

Infectious diseases Dr. Ikram-Ul-Haq says the virus strikes in large groups.

"From time to time we see some outbreaks in the community. Whenever we have lots of people together, you can acquire that," he says.

The Norwalk Virus is commonly known as the "cruise ship virus” because once let loose, it's extremely contagious in close quarters, even restaurants, on a much smaller scale.

More than 50 people got sick with the virus after eating at Uncle Ernie's Bayfront Grill and Brew House and 150 people got sick after eating at Mikato Japanese Restaurant earlier this year.

"It's not fatal, but it can cause significant dehydration," Dr. Ikram-Ul-Haq says.

The virus is spread through contaminated food. More often than not, a feces particle will attach to uncooked or poorly cooked food.

"Mostly by the ingestion of the contaminant. Either water or salad or sometime people consume poorly cooked clam or oysters," adds the doctor.

The Centers for Disease Control says half of all food-related illnesses are caused by the Norwalk and more often than not food handlers are to blame for spreading the virus.

The owner of Uncle Ernie's told Newschannel Seven the Health Department found no fault of wrong doing on the part of the restaurant.

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Norwalk Virus

  • The Norwalk virus infection is an intestinal illness that often occurs in outbreaks.

  • Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses are increasingly being recognized as leading causes of food borne disease in the United States.

  • The viruses are passed in the stool of infected persons. People get infected by swallowing stool-contaminated food or water. Outbreaks in the United States are often linked to raw oysters.

  • Infected people usually recover in 2 to 3 days without serious or long-term health effects.

Protecting yourself from the Norwalk Virus.

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water frequently. Always wash after visits to the washroom and before preparing or eating food.

  • Cook all shellfish thoroughly before eating.

  • Always wash raw vegetables before eating.

  • Dispose of sewage in a sanitary manner.

Where does the virus come from and who is at risk?

  • The virus was first identified in 1972 after an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in Norwalk, Ohio.

  • Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses are found worldwide.

  • Anyone can get Norwalk virus infection, but it may be more common in adults and older children.

Symptoms of Norwalk Virus infection.

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

  • Severe illness or hospitalization is uncommon.

  • No specific treatment is available. Persons who are severely dehydrated might need rehydration therapy.

Source: The Association of State and Territorial Directors of Health Promotion and Public Health Education’s (ASTDHPPHE) Web site contributed to this report (www.astdhopphe.org).


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