The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services issued a health alert Monday concerning a reported increase in norovirus outbreaks.


Since late September of this year, 12 confirmed or suspected norovirus outbreaks have been identified in senior care settings. More than 250 people have been sickened and five required hospitalization.

Historically, norovirus outbreaks occur more frequently between November and April.

In the state’s largest city, two recent norovirus outbreaks have been confirmed in Billings, according to a Billings Gazette report.

Tamalee St. James, RiverStone Health’s director of community health services, said on Monday that the local outbreaks, the first of the season in Billings, of the gastrointestinal virus each began sometime before the Thanksgiving holiday and were at local long-term care facilities.

Norovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that often goes by other names, such as viral gastroenteritisstomach flu, and food poisoning.

The symptoms includenausea,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.

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