Norovirus alert: County health dept. issues cautions

By MIKE MITCHELL

Hood River County environmental health supervisor

Over the last few weeks, we have had reported outbreaks of Norovirus, prompting public health officials to issue advice on steps everyone can take to avoid this common and unpleasant gastrointestinal illness.

The most important message we have right now is that people who are ill with vomiting or diarrhea should not work, go to school or attend daycare while they are having symptoms. Everyone needs to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. This is the most effective way to protect yourself and others against Norovirus since hand sanitizers alone are not as effective against this virus.

Norovirus is very easily transmitted by touching a contaminated surface as well as by direct contact or by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with the virus. Norovirus is difficult to kill with normal cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Surfaces that have been contaminated with stool or vomit should be cleaned immediately and disinfected with a freshly prepared diluted bleach solution or a bleach-based household cleaner.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Some may have fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. The symptoms can begin suddenly and an infected person may go from feeling well to very sick in a very short period of time.

In most people, the illness lasts for about one or two days. People with Norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least three days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer.

Infection can be more severe in young children and elderly people. Dehydration can occur rapidly and may require medical treatment and or hospitalization.

Unfortunately, there is no specific medication to treat Norovirus, but infected people should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost through vomiting and diarrhea. The best course of action is prevention.

Simple steps to take if you suspect the presence of Norovirus:

n Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after toilet visits and before preparing, serving or eating food or drink. Hand sanitizers are not as effective against Norovirus.

n Clean and disinfect surfaces contaminated with vomit or diarrhea immediately using a bleach-based household cleaner, or dilute household bleach (chlorine, sodium hypochlorite) 1:10 in water (must be mixed fresh daily; never use undiluted bleach).

n Stay home when sick.

n Do not prepare food for other people when sick and for at least three days afterward.

For more information about Norovirus, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://1.usa.gov/1hze4Zc.

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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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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