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Health officials warn of stomach flu virus
The Glynn County Health Department is advising residents, employees and employers to take precautions against norovirus following an increase in the number of complaints about stomach flu in Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

"We've had complaints about stomach flu type symptoms and wanted to be proactive," says Dr. Diane Weems, interim health director and chief medical officer with the Coastal Health District.

"We know how very contagious this virus is and want to remind people to take precautions."

The stomach flu virus, or norovirus, can be transmitted from contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or contact with contaminated surfaces.

Most patients will feel ill for a few days, and the flu is not serious. The very young and the elderly, as well as those with other health conditions, are most susceptible to the virus.

"It's so easily spread," Weems said. "Most people get it and recover, and it's not necessary to be tested for it."

Symptoms of the stomach flu include diarrhea, nausea and subsequent sickness and stomach cramps.

People with norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they show symptoms to at least three days after they recover.

"Just know how to prevent it. If you're sick, don't go to work or to school. Don't send your sick kids (to school)," Weems said.

Sally Silbermann, public information officer for the Coastal Health District, says the district office is continuing to investigate complaints and will issue the advisory region-wide if necessary.

She said the viruses are found in the vomit and stool of infected people.

There are a number of ways to prevent spreading or contracting stomach flu, including:

* Washing hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and always before eating or preparing food. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

* Washing fruits and vegetables and cooking oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before consumption.

* Refraining from preparing food for others if ill or infected with norovirus.

* Cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces with a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

* Washing laundry of infected person thoroughly.

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