Local Reports of Gastrointestinal Illness

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department has been receiving reports of gastrointestinal illness circulating in the district. This illness, sometimes called “stomach flu” is characterized by vomiting and diarrhea, often severe, that begins abruptly and usually passes in a day or two. It is most likely caused by a virus called “norovirus” which is easily transmitted from person to person and is the most common cause of such outbreaks.

This illness should not be confused with influenza – “flu” – which is primarily a respiratory disease. “Flu shots” offer no protection against gastrointestinal disease.

The best way to stop spreading this virus is to practice good hygiene. Ill persons may shed the virus not only when they are sick, but up to two weeks afterwards. That makes careful hand washing the most important element of control – for both sick and well people. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, especially after using the restroom or changing diapers.

Cleaning surfaces such as counters, chairs, door knobs, sinks, faucets, toilets, etc. with a chlorine bleach solution when someone in the house has been sick is also very important since the virus can be spread from touching contaminated items. Norovirus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 7 days. All surfaces in a room in which an ill person has vomited should be considered contaminated. The virus is easily transmitted when an ill person handles and contaminates food, so you should not prepare food if you are sick or were recently sick.

Norvirus clean-up procedures for disinfecting surfaces when family members are ill with vomiting and diarrhea are available by clicking the link below. These clean-up procedures are also applicable for schools, dare cares, hospitals, nursing homes, and restaurants for taking preventative measures.

Norovirus Clean Up Guidelines