The norovirus outbreak that has affected Washoe County schools and daycare facilities for the past several weeks has grown to some 1,145 cases, according to local media sources citing the Washoe County Health Department.
As of Tuesday, 17 schools and two daycare establishments remain in outbreak status.
Norovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that often goes by other names, such as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and food poisoning.
The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.
Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.
Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States. Each year it contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths.
Health officials recommend strict handwashing as an effective means to prevent the spread of contagious viruses like norovirus. In addition, those with gastrointestinal illnesses such as norovirus are advised to stay out of work or school until 48 hours after symptoms have resolved.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today