Published on 03/03/04

Norovirus infects UGA students, still spreading

By Morgan Roan
University of Georgia

A typically short-lived but intense stomach bug known as the Norwalk virus or norovirus gastroenteritis has spread rapidly throughout the University of Georgia and other campuses.

In hundreds of students, the virus has caused vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain and occasionally a headache and low-grade fever. It's spread mainly through person-to- person contact.

"Affected people need to drink enough liquids to replace the liquids they lose because of vomiting and diarrhea," said Elizabeth Andress, an Extension Service food safety specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"Otherwise," she said, "they can become dehydrated and may need special medical attention."

How do you get it?

People can be infected a number of ways. Among them are eating contaminated foods, touching contaminated surfaces and then placing their hands in their mouth or having direct contact with someone showing symptoms.

Norovirus usually incubates in 24 to 48 hours. But cases can develop within 12 hours of exposure. Symptoms last two to three days, generally without serious or long-term health effects.

Living so close to one another puts students at a higher risk for transferring illnesses.

"People need to be diligent every day to avoid spreading foodborne and other infectious diseases," Andress said.

Be safe

You can do that, she said, by washing your hands often and thoroughly. Disinfect contaminated surfaces, too, with household, chlorine bleach-based cleaners. And don't eat raw or undercooked shellfish.

Norovirus is highly contagious and spreads easily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing hands often, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food, as ways to prevent spreading the virus.

(Morgan Roan is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Morgan Roan is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.