Norovirus hitting Minnesota hard

Washing hands
Dr. Kirk Smith, who heads the state health department's foodborne diseases unit, says thorough hand-washing with soap is the best way to prevent norovirus.
Lucille Pine / Creative Commons via Flickr

State health officials say outbreaks of norovirus are hitting Minnesota especially hard this winter.

The Department of Health has received more than 40 reports of outbreaks since the beginning of November.

Noroviruses are the leading cause of foodborne illness in the state. They infect thousands of Minnesotans each year, typically causing nausea, vomiting and body aches for a few days.

Dr. Kirk Smith, who heads the state health department's foodborne diseases unit, says norovirus is especially common this year. It typically flares up in winter months, though experts are unsure why.

"The good news is it only lasts for a day or two," he said. "The bad news is that you really feel bad for that day or two. But probably only 1 percent of people are hospitalized, overall."

Smith says thorough hand-washing with soap is the best way to prevent norovirus. The viruses spread through person-to-person contact, and infected people can still pass them on a for a few days after symptoms disappear.

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