Stomach flu making its rounds in Saskatchewan but nothing out of the norm

If you’ve been laid up on the couch recently then you already know, there’s a stomach flu making its rounds.

Known more formally as norovirus, the bug is highly infectious bringing on bouts of nausea, vomiting as well as other symptoms from acute gastroenteritis but is it any worse than other years?

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Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health said preliminary numbers related to gastrointestinal illness for 2019 are within the expected range.

In fact, the average number of outbreaks related to the norovirus each year in the province – is about 33.

Roughly 300 to 400 outbreaks of the illness are reported to the National Enteric Surveillance Program at the Public Health Agency of Canada each year. Only the common cold occurs more often.

Many outbreaks go unreported and people exposed to the virus usually develop symptoms of illness within 24 to 48 hours, but symptoms can occur as soon as 12 hours after exposure.

People infected with norovirus can also be contagious from the moment they start feeling ill to at least three days after they have recovered. In some cases, people may be contagious for as long as two weeks after they recover.

So how do people become infected, here’s the three main ways the bug is spread, according the ministry:

  • through direct contact with another infected person (for example, when caring for or diapering an ill child, or sharing food or utensils with an ill person);
  • by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus; or
  • by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated.

There is no vaccine or antiviral to prevent getting sick with norovirus and antibiotics are not effective in treating someone who has fallen ill.

According to health experts, to avoid getting sick, hand washing is crucial and immediately wash any clothing or linens that may be contaminated by the virus.

Other helpful tips include:

  • do not eat raw shellfish. Cook it thoroughly before eating it, especially clams and oysters;
  • wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean, safe running water before you prepare and eat them. Use a brush to scrub produce with firm or rough surfaces, like oranges, cantaloupes, potatoes and carrots;
  • thoroughly clean contaminated surfaces, and disinfect using chlorine bleach, especially after an episode of illness;
  • if you have been diagnosed with norovirus or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not prepare food or pour water for other people while you have symptoms, and for the first three days after you recover; and
  • avoid contact with others until you are well again.

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