Health department urges prevention, precautions to avoid norovirus

RBC | If you’re headed to Mesa or Garfield counties to shop, socialize or relax during the upcoming holiday anytime soon, take some precautions so you don’t bring home more than you bargained for in the form of a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus.

An outbreak of norovirus—a virus that typically causes vomiting and diarrhea—has swept through an entire Grand Junction school district, prompting school closures until after the Thanksgiving holiday. The virus is extremely contagious for up to two weeks after infection and can live on surfaces for as long as 42 days.

The latest update from Mesa County Public Health issued on Friday, Nov. 22 reports an outbreak in a long-term care facility that has resulted in three hospitalizations. On Friday, Garfield County Public Health issued an advisory after receiving reports from childcare centers and workplaces about individuals with similar symptoms.

Because so many Rio Blanco County residents travel regularly to Mesa and Garfield counties, Rio Blanco County Public Health Director Alice Harvey is urging residents to be proactive and take precautions to avoid infection.

“If this virus is affecting schools, we know it is also affecting the community at large and it is a matter of time before the virus is introduced into our community,” said Rio Blanco County Health Director Alice Harvey via email.

The first symptoms of norovirus begin 12-48 hours after infection and include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps.

“Rio Blanco County Public Health suggests that residents who feel they may have been exposed to norovirus or are experiencing active symptoms of norovirus to avoid public places, and do not return to work or school until you have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours,” Harvey said.

“Symptoms may last for 1-3 days; although most cases go undiagnosed and don’t require medical care, it is important to contact your medical provider if symptoms persist as dehydration is a potentially dangerous side effect. The virus spreads quickly from person-to-person, especially in group settings. It is important to frequently wash your hands with soap and water, disinfect potentially contaminated areas with bleach solution, and to not prepare food when ill with vomiting or diarrhea. Please call public health with any questions, 970-878-9520 (Meeker) or 9525 (Rangely).”