|Michael F. Easley
|Carmen Hooker Odom
For Release: IMMEDIATE
|Contact: Debbie Crane|
State Epidemiologist: Washing Hands Key to Preventing “Stomach Flu”
RALEIGH – State Epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Engel today said that there continue to be outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis, also known as “stomach flu,” across the state. He urged everyone to be vigilant to help prevent the illness.
“We’ve heard of numerous outbreaks across the state in the past couple of weeks,” said Dr. Engel. “While you can never totally prevent spread of an illness, you can certainly limit infection by taking proper precautions. In this instance, our best advice is: wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.”
Dr. Engel says that people should frequently wash their hands, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers and before preparing food. “Use soap and warm water, because research shows that the alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not be all that effective against the virus causing stomach flu,” he said.
In addition to washing hands, there are other precautions to prevent spread of the disease:
The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. Sick people may also have headache, fever, and abdominal cramps ("stomach ache"). In general, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days following infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness. The current outbreak illness in North Carolina is lasting 1 to 2 days. Although viral gastroenteritis is often commonly called “stomach flu,” it has no relationship to the influenza virus, which is a respiratory disease.
“In general, this illness doesn’t cause serious long-term consequences in most healthy people,” Dr. Engel said. “You feel really awful for a couple of days and need to stay near a bathroom, but you get over it. It can be a serious illness for people who are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through vomiting or diarrhea.”
Infants, young children, and people who are unable to care for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly, are at risk for dehydration from loss of fluids. Immune compromised persons are at risk for dehydration because they may get a more serious illness, with greater vomiting or diarrhea. They may need to be hospitalized for treatment to correct or prevent dehydration.
Several of the outbreaks have been caused by noroviruses, but viral
gastroenteritis can be caused by other viruses as well. Because viral
gastroenteritis is relatively common and usually not serious, the state
doesn’t require reporting of the disease. But, if local health
care or local health department employees need assistance in handling
an outbreak, they may consult with the experts from the N.C. Division
of Public Health.
|Public Affairs Office
101 Blair Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603