LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Doctors are encouraging people to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of norovirus.

The virus infects your stomach or intestines and causes stomach cramps, diarrhea or vomiting. It’s often called a stomach bug or mislabeled as the stomach flu. The supervisor over infectious diseases at Norton Healthcare Dr. Paul Schulz says it can spread quickly and the symptoms are intensified.

“More frequent, more severe symptoms,” Dr. Schulz said. “And it’s going to last longer.”

The virus typically spreads through vomit, stool and touching contaminated surfaces or objects.

“Norovirus requires a very small inoculum to cause illness,” Dr. Schulz said. “So, in other words, you don’t have to have much contact with it or get too much in your GI tract in order to get infected.”

There is no vaccine or medicine that can stop norovirus. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends following these steps to prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Wash hands with soap and water
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces and objects
  • Wash contaminated clothing, bedding and towels
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
  • Cook any seafood thoroughly
  • If you’re sick, don’t prepare any food for or take care of others for at least two days after your symptoms stop

Hand sanitizers can help reduce the number of germs, but it should not replace the habit of washing your hands.

And if you do contract norovirus, be sure to drink extra fluids. Severe dehydration can be a serious problem with this virus. And stay home.

“Don’t go to work,” Dr. Schulz urged. “Don’t go to school, don’t go to daycare, don’t go to places – don’t get on a cruise ship – where you’re likely to be in close contact with a lot of other people and that sort of thing can be passed easily.”

If you’re sick and the symptoms last longer than three days, Dr. Schulz said you should consider going to a doctor. And the elderly, young and chronically-ill should take extra care.

“The virus can be very devastating to somebody already compromised,” Dr. Schulz said. “And those people often need to be hospitalized for what we call supportive care – fluid, electrolyte management.”

Norovirus is more commonly contracted in the colder winter months while everyone is inside. But epidemics are reported throughout the year. So far, outbreaks reported to the CDC appear to be on par with previous years. But statistics show outbreaks could spike between February and March.

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