South West Georgia Public Health

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Norovirus, or “stomach flu,” now circulating in Southwest Georgia

ALBANY— Along with widespread flu activity in Southwest Georgia, there is also another bug circulating—norovirus, also known as the “stomach flu.”
“We are getting reports of it in places like childcare facilities,” said Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis. Unlike seasonal influenza, there is no vaccine to prevent norovirus.
However, the body’s immune system usually destroys the virus within a week or so, he said.
“Norovirus-like illness causes about 20 million gastroenteritis cases each year in the United States,” Ruis said. “This is the time of the year we often see it.”
Norovirus illness is not related to seasonal influenza, which is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.
“There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection,” Ruis cautioned. “Antibiotics will not help if you have norovirus illness. This is because antibiotics fight against bacteria, not viruses.” The best way to reduce your chance of getting norovirus is by following some simple tips:
• Avoid people who are sick if possible, even though it is the holiday season. Consider using video-chatting apps rather than spending time with people who are ill.
• Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers. If soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
• People with norovirus illness should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.
• After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, you can use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
• Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully—disturbing them as little as possible—to avoid spreading the virus. If available, wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling. The items should be washed with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.
• People who have been sick should remain home for two to three days after symptoms have stopped before returning to school or work to avoid spreading the infection.
“Most people get better in one¬ to two days,” Ruis said. “Norovirus illness is not life-threatening. But it can be serious, particularly in young children, the elderly and people with other health conditions. It can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.”
Symptoms of norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea and stomach cramping. Less common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and general sense of fatigue.
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