Gastrointestinal illness in the region

Garfield County Public Health urges people with gastrointestinal illness to stay home

Nov. 21, 2019

A significant number of people experiencing norovirus-like illness in Mesa County prompted the recent closing of Mesa County Valley School District 51 schools. Garfield County Public Health has received calls from childcare centers and workplaces reporting individuals with similar symptoms. Public Health is monitoring the outbreak; and encourages everyone to help prevent the spread of illness. People who are 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. Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) in the United States. Symptoms typically include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Most patients report feeling better within 12-24 hours.

Norovirus spreads quickly and easily. People with the virus may spread it through their stools and vomit. Contagiousness begins the moment a person notices symptoms, and continues for the first few days after recovery. The virus can stay on objects and surfaces, and may continue infecting people for days or weeks.

Norovirus is particularly contagious because it can live on surfaces for a very long time. It is destroyed only by bleach applications. It is important for anyone experiencing symptoms to avoid public places until being symptom free.

Norovirus vs. influenza
Norovirus illness is often called by other names, such as food poisoning and stomach flu. Noroviruses can cause food poisoning, as can other germs and chemicals. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu (influenza). Though they share some of the same symptoms, the flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.

Influenza’s symptoms include fever, body aches, cough and possibly sore throat. Influenza typically has a much longer recovery period. Getting an annual flu shot is the best protection against influenza. 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.

For more information on norovirus see the CDC fact sheet.

Mesa County outbreak