Health officials warn Rochester area of stomach flu outbreak

Olmsted County Public Health has issued a holiday health alert after receiving hundreds of reports consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious and fast-spreading virus that causes diarrhea, vomiting, aches and other symptoms.

With families about to gather and cook for Thanksgiving, Olmsted County Public Health official Kari Etrheim said it's wise to wash one's hands regularly and thoroughly.

Even after the symptoms have passed, she said, people can still be contagious.

"When we feel better, we think we can go back into our normal routines," Etrheim said. "But we'll still shedding the virus and it's really important to tell grandma, 'Nope, I shouldn't help in the kitchen.'"

Etrheim advises against touching or preparing food until three days after a person stops having symptoms. It's crucial to stay home from school, work or other gatherings when ill, she said.

Norovirus outbreaks are common around the holidays, she said, but this one is unusually large.

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