New strain of Norovirus hits Minnesota

6:20 PM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - A new strain of an intestinal bug is going around making Minnesotans sick.

Norovirus is certainly unpleasant and it can very, very hard to get rid of because its germs are difficult to wash away.

Doctors say Norovirus is the most common cause of intestinal illness. It causes diarrhea, vomiting, cramps and sometimes fever. It peaks in winter and every few years, we get a new strain to which we are not immune.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the new strain, called the Sydney strain, is now here in Minnesota.

If someone you know gets it, you will have to be very vigilant about cleaning because its germs are plentiful and sticky. They say not to reach for the hand sanitizer. Studies show it is not good at washing Norovirus away.

Kirk Smith, supervisor of the Food Borne Diseases Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health, said billions of viral particles can be released when someone has Norovirus. Some become airborne and it takes very few to make someone else sick.

So first and foremost, wash hands frequently, after using the restroom, before eating or before preparing food. Norovirus is often transmitted via food prepared by someone who hasn't washed their hands properly.

So really scrub those hands, getting under your fingernails, washing the knuckles, fingertips and wrists.

Wash with good old soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday song twice) and then dry vigorously with paper towel or clean cloth towel.

When cleaning surfaces, Smith said you need to take a second step.

"It's an extremely hearty virus so when it's on surfaces, you need to clean the surface to get rid of any organic material, but then you need to disinfect as well and what's recommended the most is bleach," he said.

He said do not use bleach wipes because not all of them are powerful enough.

Smith recommends cleaning surfaces with a mixture of 5 to 25 tablespoons of bleach mixed into one gallon of water.

Norovirus can also live on laundry. So, if the care tags allow, use very hot water and bleach when washing clothing, sheets or towels.

Also, people can be contagious for up to two weeks after symptoms go away. So Smith said they should avoid preparing food for others for at least 72 hours, if not longer, once they have recovered.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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