A highly contagious virus has left several people in the northern part of the state sick and it could be headed to southern Utah.
The exact origin of the norovirus outbreak is unknown; however, it is believed to have started in Utah County. Schools in Utah County reported about 10-15 percent of students were home sick due to symptoms of the norovirus and nearly a thousand cases total were reported in both Utah and Salt Lake County.
The norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is a viral infection that is spread by having physical contact with an infected person, eating or drinking foods that have been contaminated, or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.
The Utah County Health Department issued a letter that stated: “If your child has any of the symptoms of norovirus, we ask that you do not send him/her to school until 72 hours after [the] vomiting and diarrhea have ended. Even if they just have an upset stomach, please keep them home while they are feeling ill, as it is possible that they may vomit while at school.”
People with the virus can shed billions of norovirus particles, and it only takes as little as 10-100 particles for another person to be infected. If a person vomits, those particles can be sent into the air within a 25-foot radius according to Dean Brereton, assistant professor of nursing.
Other symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may include: nausea, stomach pain, fever, headache or body aches.
According to a norovirus fact sheet provided by the Utah County Health Department, those most susceptible to infection and that have a higher risk of complications are young children, elderly people and the immunocompromised.
Brereton said the best way to protect yourself is to boost your natural immunity and stay away from those that are sick.
Those who have already been exposed to the norovirus need to keep away from others until at least 24 hours after symptoms resolve. And above all, people are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water after using the restroom, before eating and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.