SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif- Several cases of a highly contagious virus have occurred within a month in San Luis Obispo County. It's called norovirus and it originates from Australia and is the cause of 21 million illnesses in the United States each year.
A new strain is finding its way into San Luis Obispo County, which means more people could be sickened this year or even worse. This virus could be fatal. Two restaurants and one long term care facility have had outbreaks, but the San Luis Obispo County Health Department said there are simple ways to try and avoid this virus.
Norovirus is responsible for 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths a year in the United States. "These are generally people who are either very young or very old or who are sick with other conditions that then become infected," said Epidemiologist, Ann McDowell.
You can get the virus either from touching an infected person, food, water or even contact with objects. "Norovirus is extremely contagious, if you touch something that someone else has touched that is sick you can get the particles on your hands and then if you touch your face, your mouth, your nose, your eyes, you can then ingest the virus and become ill yourself," said McDowell.
The health department is asking people to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to avoid getting the virus. People also need to wash food and cook it thoroughly because the virus can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees.
The virus almost always brings with it flu-like symptoms. "It's usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, people will complain of chills, sometimes fever, muscle aches, and a generally sense of fatigue," said McDowell. That's one of the problems said McDowell, usually you have to go to the doctor to find out it's more than just the flu and what's scary about this virus is you may not know you have it. "You can transmit it before you become ill with the symptoms and 2-3 weeks after you stop having symptoms," said McDowell. The best thing the public health department said to do is to get in contact with your primary doctor if you are having symptoms and if it lasts longer than 2-3 days.