Garfield Public Health issues stomach bug advisory
Garfield County Public Health is urging people who think they may have gastrointestinal illness, or stomach bug, to stay home from work or school to avoid its spread.
The county health department’s alert comes a day after schools in neighboring Mesa County were closed due to an outbreak of norovirus among students and school staff there.
“Garfield County Public Health has received calls from childcare centers and workplaces reporting individuals with similar symptoms,” according to a Thursday afternoon statement from the county health officials.
“Public Health is monitoring the outbreak, and encourages everyone to help prevent the spread of illness.”
Public school officials in Garfield County said Wednesday that they had not seen an increase in norovirus symptoms, but were closely monitoring the situation. Garfield Re-2 schools are not in session on Friday, and will be out for the coming Thanksgiving holiday week along with Roaring Fork and Garfield District 16 Schools.
County health officials advise that people who feel ill should stay home and parents should keep sick children home for 24-48 hours, or until all symptoms resolve.
“It is not uncommon to see an increase in norovirus and norovirus-like illnesses this time of year,” according to the statement from Garfield Public Health.
Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Symptoms typically include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain, and most patients report feeling better within 12-24 hours.
During that period of time, though, norovirus can spread quickly and easily through vomit, stools and any contact with objects or surfaces, health officials advise.
“Norovirus is particularly contagious because it can live on surfaces for a very long time,” according to the county’s statement. The virus is destroyed only by bleach applications, and it’s important for anyone experiencing symptoms to avoid public places until being symptom-free.
Norovirus is not the same as influenza, or the flu.
“Norovirus illness is often called by other names, such as food poisoning and stomach flu,” health officials explained. “Norovirus illness is not related to the flu, though they share some of the same symptoms.”
The actual flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.
Influenza’s symptoms include fever, body aches, cough and possibly sore throat. Influenza also typically has a much longer recovery period, and getting an annual flu shot is the best protection against influenza.
Garfield County Public Health has the flu mist, flu shots and high-dose vaccines available at its locations in Rifle and Glenwood Springs.
Public Health recommendations to prevent the spread of the norovirus-like illness:
- Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water are not readily available.
- People who have been sick with this illness should stay home and remain home for at least 24-48 hours after symptoms have subsided.
- People with illness should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare for 2-3 days after recovering.
- If you think you’ve been exposed to the virus through clean up, contact or caregiving of an ill person, consider limiting interaction with others for at least 24 hours.
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Garfield County’s healthcare network easily has the capacity to administer twice as many COVID-19 vaccinations than it has given so far, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said Monday.