3D illustration of norovirus (Dreamstime)

Health Alert: Michiganders Urged To Take Precautions Against Norovirus

Health officials say cases are up in the state

January 07, 2019 - 4:58 pm

LANSING (WWJ) - State health officials are urging Michiganders to protect themselves against a contagious stomach bug that can be debilitating.

Some people call it the stomach flu, but norovirus is not related to the flu virus. In fact, WWJ Newsradio 950's Dr. Deanna Lites reports, it's a respiratory virus that can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Infected people may also have a low-grade fever. 

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, people can can contract norovirus from contaminated food or water, from an infected person, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

The health department's Lynn Sutfin says norovirus illness often peaks in winter, and cases are up in the state.

"In 2018 there has been a total of 249," she told Dr. Lites. "And we saw five in November in 21 in we are starting to see things kinda on the rise."

To protect yourself and others, the best way to limit the spread of these viruses is frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm running water, being sure to completely clean all areas of hands and under fingernails. This is especially important after using the bathroom or before preparing or eating food.

Preventing contamination of food, drinks, water and ice is also very important. People who have been sick with vomiting and diarrhea should not prepare or serve food to others for at least three days after their symptoms are gone. One-third cup of bleach diluted with one gallon of water is the most effective way to disinfect surfaces. Bleach should be used in well-ventilated areas. (Hand sanitizers are ineffective against the virus).  

Health officials say the virus can remain on a variety of surfaces for extended periods of time. Doorknobs, faucets, sinks, toilets, bath rails, phones, counters, chairs, tables, hand rails, light switches, keyboards and other high-touch surfaces should be disinfected more frequently, but especially within a 25-foot radius after a vomiting incident. Steam clean carpets and upholstery and launder clothes or linens contaminated with vomit or feces on the hottest setting.

The symptoms of norovirus usually last one to three days. In most cases, ill individuals fully recover without medical attention, health officiasl say, although norovirus infection may result in hospitalization due to dehydration, especially in the very young and elderly. Individuals with severe diarrhea should drink lots of liquids. Symptoms that are not seen with norovirus infection are bloody diarrhea or high fever. If these symptoms develop, you're urged to call your doctor. 

For more information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, visit