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Home > Health Topics > Podcasts > Preventing the Spread of Norovirus

Preventing the Spread of Norovirus

December 20, 2007

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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This time of year in the winter season, we often hear in the press about outbreaks of viral illnesses in nursing homes and one of those in particular is called norovirus.

You'll hear about nursing homes or, for that matter, other large congregate living facilities where people who live closely together, and have health care workers passing from bed to bed, will come down with a viral illness.

This illness is called norovirus. It causes diarrhea and vomiting. It usually lasts two to three days. In someone who is frail and elderly or immune-compromised, it can cause severe dehydration and actually require hospitalization.

I'm Dr. William Walker, the County Health Officer and the Director of Contra Costa Health Services. I'm here to explain a little bit more about the norovirus and what you might be hearing.

We do know that the disease is self-limiting, that there is no particularly good treatment and that those who become infected really need to pay close attention to making sure they don't become dehydrated. This means taking oral fluids like Gatorade, and sometimes needing intravenous IV fluids as well. We do know that when there is an outbreak of in a nursing home, the most important thing is for the health care providers in that nursing home to take extreme caution with regard to not going from bed to bed without washing their hands, and particularly, it's important that visitors coming in and out of the nursing home wash their hands going in, make sure they don't have contact from bed to bed and that they also wash their hands going out.

I've had personal experience with this. My mother was in a nursing home for about four years in Colorado.They had several outbreaks of norovirus, and I know personally that they were able to control the outbreaks by using the exact measures I have just talked about.

You can find out more information about this at, on our website, and thanks for listening.

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