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     FrontPage Edition: Sun 8 October 2006

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Recent outbreaks of norovirus gastroenteritis in two schools

Source: www.moh.gov.sg

Norovirus Gastroenteritis - Ministry of Health Advises Institutions to be Vigilant with Hygiene Measures

 
There has been an increase in the number of persons attending the polyclinics for acute diarrhoea over the past three weeks.
The average weekly attendances during this three-week period was about 20 per cent higher than the attendances for the week just before this three-week period. Such fluctuations do take place throughout the year.
This increase over the past three-week period is only 5 per cent higher compared to the corresponding period last year.
However, in view of the recent outbreaks of norovirus gastroenteritis in two schools affecting a large number of school children, the Ministry would like to advise the public to be vigilant about diarrhoeal illnesses.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can cause "gastric flu" or viral gastroenteritis. The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
Sometimes people also have fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults.
The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. However, the illness is usually not serious. Most people get better within 1-2 days, and they have no long-term health effects related to their illness.
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth
  • having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).
Noroviruses are very contagious. As the infection can spread easily from person to person, institutions e.g. schools, day-care centers, residential homes, nursing homes and hospitals are vulnerable to norovirus outbreaks.
The Ministry advises such institutions to be vigilant with hygiene measures in their institutions. Residents with symptoms suggestive of viral gastroenteritis should be managed with proper infection control measures.
In addition, institutions should monitor their staff who are ill and not allow them to return to work until all their symptoms have resolved.
The Ministry also advises persons who are having symptoms suggestive of viral gastroenteritis to refrain from attending school or work until they are well.
When people are ill with vomiting and diarrhea, they should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Persons who become dehydrated because they are unable to drink enough fluids to replace the liquids they lost because of vomiting and diarrhoea should seek medical attention.
You can decrease your chance of coming in contact with norovirus by following these preventive steps:
  • Frequently wash your hands, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using household bleach in a ratio of one unit to 50 units of water
  • Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap)
  • Flush or discard any vomitus and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
Persons who are ill with vomiting and diarrhea should not prepare food while they have symptoms and for three days after they recover from their illness. Food that may have been contaminated by an ill person should be disposed of properly.

Source: www.moh.gov.sg Press Release 7 Oct 2006

Related Article:
- Norovirus outbreak may have affected another two schools

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