NOROVIRUS aka STOMACH FLU UPDATE 4/23/19

April 23, 2019

There have been reports of suspected norovirus manifesting as abrupt onset severe vomiting and diarrhea in residential students at UCSC this past week.  One student was confirmed as having NOROVIRUS.  This pattern of illness, sometimes referred to as the “stomach flu,” is typical for norovirus which usually causes short-lasting outbreaks and is highly contagious. People usually get a norovirus infection directly from an ill individual who did not wash their hands adequately.

Anyone can get norovirus infection, and can get it many times since immunity is not long-lasting. The infection has caused many outbreaks in the state of California and nationwide in recent years, as well as a few highly publicized outbreaks on cruise ships.

Symptoms can include:

  • Nausea (often sudden onset)
  • Vomiting (often projectile)
  • Crampy abdominal pain
  • Watery diarrhea
  • High temperature chills and muscle aches.

Symptoms begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only about 1-2 days. However, illness may be prolonged in some people and in more severe cases it may cause dehydration and require intravenous hydration or hospital treatment.

People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:

  • Contact with an infected person, especially contact with vomit or feces.
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching eyes, nose or mouth.

There is no vaccine or antiviral medication for this condition.

Taking good hygiene measures around someone who is infected can decrease your chance of getting infected. Wash hands frequently with SOAP and WATER, including before eating or preparing food and after toilet use. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers alone are not sufficient against this particular virus and careful washing with soap and water is the most important intervention an individual can take. Wash your hands frequently and think about what you touch. Try to keep your hands off your face and mouth.

Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of vomiting or diarrhea by using a bleach-based household cleaner. Flush or discard any vomit and/or feces in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.

Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. Both feces and vomit of an infected person contain the virus and are infectious. People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to two to three days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as two weeks after recovery. It is important for people to use good hand washing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from a norovirus infection. In addition, noroviruses are very resilient and can survive in the environment (on surfaces etc.) for a number of weeks. Therefore it is important that surfaces and objects that may have become contaminated are cleaned thoroughly.

It is extremely important that people who have been ill with vomiting or diarrhea should remain off school or work while symptomatic for two full days after their last episode of vomiting or diarrhea. Please use the buddy meal system and send someone to the dining hall to pick up a meal for you. People who have been ill with vomiting or diarrhea and employed as food handlers or caring for the elderly should remain off work for three full days after resolution of vomiting and diarrhea.

See guidelines for managing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea: https://healthcenter.ucsc.edu/forms/student-handbook/HC-177-GI-Diet.pdf

Ill students who are not sure if they need medical attention are encouraged to call the Student Health Center Advice Line at 459-2591 and speak with a nurse. Please consult the AFTER HOURS information on the Student Health Center home page if you need medical attention when the Student Health Center is closed.

For Live Health Online option, see this link: https://healthcenter.ucsc.edu/billing-insurance/livehealthonline.html   

 

Drew Malloy, MD

Medical Director

UCSC Student Health Center