News from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department
For Immediate Release
Friday, December 29, 2017
Contact: Audrey Gray, Public Health Preparedness Manager
Phone: 307-235-9340

Natrona County – The Casper-Natrona County Health Department has confirmed widespread activity of viral gastroenteritis or “stomach flu” in the Natrona County area. The Casper-Natrona County Health Department is investigating several outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis associated with long-term care facilities and other venues. The facility-specific outbreaks are a symptom of community-wide transmission. Viral gastroenteritis is a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu.” The most common virus that causes viral gastroenteritis is norovirus. These viruses are a common cause of outbreaks. The Casper – Natrona County Health Department is working closely with the Wyoming Department of Health to limit the spread of the illness.

Viral gastroenteritis is very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. People infected with viral gastroenteritis are contagious from the moment that they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery. Therefore, it is important to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices.

You can decrease your chance of becoming infected with viral gastroenteritis or spreading the virus by following these preventive steps:

1) Frequently wash your hands, especially after using the restroom, after changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.

2) If you are ill, stay home from work and school, especially if you work in food-handling, healthcare, or child care.

3) Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a solution of 1/3 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water (50:1 dilution).

4) Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with the virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).

5) Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.

The symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Often people will have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. The illness often begins suddenly, but is typically brief, with symptoms lasting 1 or 2 days. Most people improve in 24-48 hours, and have no long-term health effects related to viral gastroenteritis infection. However, if dehydrated due to vomiting and diarrhea occurs, seek medical attention.

When people are ill with viral gastroenteritis, they should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. By drinking juice or water, people can reduce the chance of becoming dehydrated. If you work in food-handling, healthcare, or child care, you should not attend work while you are ill and you should not return to work until 72 hours after your symptoms cease. If you experience blood in your stool and/or if your illness lasts more than 72 hours, this may be indicative of a more serious gastrointestinal, bacterial infection and you may want to see your primary healthcare provider for testing.

There is no antiviral medication that works against viral gastroenteritis, and there is no vaccine to prevent infection. Viral gastroenteritis cannot be treated with antibiotics. This is because antibiotics work to fight against bacteria not viruses.

For more information about the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis, read here: https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html.

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