County reports new strain of norovirus in Cascade Locks

Testing at Cascade Locks School confirmed that the December outbreak was caused by a Norovirus GII.

The Oregon State Public Health Lab is currently doing gene sequencing to determine the exact strain, according to Tracy Willett, Hood River County Health Officer.

Human noroviruses are the major cause of acute nonbacterial gastroenteritis and the leading cause of outbreaks of gastroenteritis worldwide, Willett said in a press release.

Willett said it is unknown how many people in Hood River County had been affected by norovirus as reporting is not required. About half the student body of Cascade Locks School was absent during a week-long period in early December, leading the school district to sterilize the school overnight on Dec. 17.

Oregon has seen about twice the number of norovirus-like outbreaks since November 2012 as in the same time in 2011. Norovirus outbreaks occur mainly in the winter months.

On Nov. 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a new strain of norovirus was identified in Australia and has reached U.S. shores. Genotype II-4 (GII.4) norovirus spreads rapidly and is the most commonly detected strain worldwide. This new strain, norovirus GII.4 Sydney, was confirmed in Oregon by the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory on Dec. 10.

The arrival of a new strain — i.e., the arrival of a new strain to which no one is immune — occurs about every four years and usually, but not always, results in widespread illness in the community, according to Willett.

Noroviruses can be transmitted by accidentally ingesting the virus, which is present in stool or vomitus. This usually happens by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers to your mouth, or having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness).

The average incubation period for norovirus-associated gastroenteritis is 12-48 hours. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and watery, and non-bloody diarrhea with abdominal cramps.

In addition, myalgia, malaise and headache are commonly reported. Low-grade fever is present in about half of cases. Dehydration is the most common complication and may require intravenous replacement fluids. Symptoms usually last 24-60 hours. In up to 30 percent of infections, the carrier may experience no symptoms.

Willett said norovirus is very, very contagious. Precautions include washing affected surfaces with dilute bleach solution (one part bleach to 10 parts water), using warm water and soap for hand-washing, and having ill people use their own dishes and, if available, a separate bathroom.

People who have been ill should stay home for 72 hours after symptoms disappear to limit spread.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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