Norovirus 'cruise ship' infection hits Memphis - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Norovirus 'cruise ship' infection hits Memphis

(WMC-TV) - A warning from the Shelby County Health Department reveals that norovirus, an illness that normally hits cruise ships, is hitting Memphis.

After dealing with the virus first hand, a Mid-South mother and school teacher wants other residents to be aware of the illness.

"I was fine that day we had gone to the park, had a fun family day outside," said Melissa Burnside.

But by 11 p.m. that night, Burnside said the norovirus hit her hard.

"Without any warning you just get more nauseated, you're vomiting. You're just real sick feeling, and it lasted about 12 to 24 hours," added Burnside.

After the nausea, Burnside said the next phase of the norovirus set in and it was terrible too.

"Just like you have been run over by a 'Mack' truck you have the body aches, can't get comfortable .... You want to sleep all the time," she said.

Worst of all, there is nothing you can do about the virus but allow it to run its course. Burnside stayed hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest.

Burnside stayed away from her son and kept her home disinfected with bleach.

"It is highly contagious my biggest concern was him not catching it and making sure the house was sanitized," she said.

She constantly washed her hands, which doctors say is one of the most important steps.

Maintaining good personal hygiene is your best bet for preventing the spread of norovirus. There is no vaccine to prevent the infection, and doctors say antibiotics will not treat the symptoms.

The Shelby County Health Department is sounding the alarm, reporting five outbreaks in February alone. Outbreaks are classified by two or more unrelated cases in the same facility.

The department cannot release the locations of the outbreaks, but the largest case left 30 people sick. A total of 100 people reported to be sick with the virus in day cares and long term care facilities.

"It can spread through contact. If someone throws up, it can land on hard surfaces and the virus can live for days up to weeks on the hard surfaces," said Shelby County Health Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Helen Morrow.

If you are not familiar with norovirus, it is a particularly nasty infection: diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping and vomiting. The warning is enough to make you reach for hand sanitizer, but think twice before you do.

"Hand sanitizers aren't great for it. You really need to be using soap and water. If someone is caring for a person it's advised they wear gloves," added Dr. Morrow.

This is the season for norovirus.  Anytime you see multiple cases reported, it will spread quickly.

"We had five in a very short amount of time this time so we wanted to let people know. And if it's in a facility people may not be able to visit their loved ones because of the ease of spread," noted Morrow.

Norovirus symptoms can begin suddenly with a person going from feeling well to very sick in a short period of time. Along with the main symptoms, dehydration can happen fast with Norovirus and may require medical treatment or hospitalization.

Prevention tips to stop the spread of norovirus:

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

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

* Stay home when sick.

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

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

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