Norovirus outbreak impacts U.S. military facilities in Germany

By Ms. Michelle Thum (Regional Health Command Europe)January 24, 2019

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Multiple U.S. military installations in Germany are experiencing an increase in norovirus cases, as a result of significant norovirus activity being reported throughout Germany.

Norovirus is the official name for a group of viruses that cause the stomach flu. Healthcare and childcare facilities are particularly susceptible to these viruses due to the ease of transmission, the small amount of infective material needed to spread the disease, the short incubation period, and the fact that the virus can live in the environment for a long time unless adequately cleaned.

"Symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Those symptoms typically come on very quickly but usually only last for one or two days." said Col. Rodney Coldren, Chief of Public Health Command Europe's Preventive Medicine Services.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control the greatest health risk from norovirus is severe dehydration, especially in young children, the elderly, and people with other illnesses. Symptoms of severe dehydration include decreased urination or very dark urine, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, lack of energy and fainting. Parents of children in diapers may notice a decrease in the number of wet diapers, although this may be hard to notice with frequent diarrhea.

"If you or a family member are experiencing norovirus symptoms, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration," Coldren said. "If dehydration occurs, seek care from your primary care provider or local Emergency Room immediately."

Because norovirus is more persistent than other viral causes of gastrointestinal infections, Coldren recommends staying home from work or school for at least 48 hours following any episode of vomiting or diarrhea to prevent the spread of the infection.

There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus and because antibiotics fight bacterial infections, not viruses, they are ineffective in treating the illness, according to the CDC.

People can become infected after consuming foods or liquids contaminated with norovirus, having direct contact with an infected individual or touching surfaces containing the virus. Symptoms can appear as early as twelve hours after exposure to norovirus, according to the CDC.

5 Tips to prevent norovirus from spreading

1. Practice proper hand hygiene --use soap and water as alcohol-based hand sanitizers alone do not kill norovirus

2. Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly

3. When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others

4. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces

5. Wash laundry thoroughly

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