Two children in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala were confirmed to be infected with norovirus, by the state health department on Sunday, 5 June.
According to state health officials, the two kids are in a stable condition. Health Minister Veena George has urged people to exercise caution, and maintain hygiene practices.
More samples of kids in their school have, reportedly, been sent for examination, with the cause suspected to be food poising from mid-day meals.
Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach bug that causes diarrhoea and related issues. It isn't a new virus, though.
How much do we know about Norovirus? Should you be concerned? FIT spoke to Dr Amar Fettle, Epidemiologist, and Kerala State Nodal Officer infectious diseases like COVID-19, H1N1, and Zika, to answer your FAQs.
What is norovirus?
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus, also known as the 'winter vomiting bug', is a highly contagious viral infection.
It is often loosely clubbed under umbrella terms like 'stomach flu', 'food poisoning', or 'stomach bug'. However, norovirus is different from the flu, which is caused by the influenza virus.
"We have had episodes of norovirus now and then. There is nothing alarming about it," Epidemiologist Dr Amar Fettle, tells FIT.
If it's not new, why are we only hearing about it now?
According to Dr Fettle, it has been reported several times recently because of how sophisticated our virus tracking systems have gotten post COVID.
"Now our viral screens are very specific," he says. "Earlier we used to just have two types - viral diarrhoea, and bacterial diarrhoea."
"It is possible that many of the cases of general viral diarrhoea in the past was actually norovirus. Now because we have RTPCR, and viral typing, it is easy to identify them. Which is why the name is popping up now."Dr Amar Fettle, Epidemiologist, and Kerala State Nodal Officer infectious diseases like COVID-19, H1N1, and Zika
How does it spread?
"The thing is that this virus is very easily transmitted from one person to another."Dr Amar Fettle, Epidemiologist, and Kerala State Nodal Officer infectious diseases like COVID-19, H1N1, and Zika
The two main culprits according to experts are contaminated food and water, and poor hand hygiene.
"Food and water that is contaminated with faecal matter in even a minute form can carry this virus," says Dr Fettle.
What are the symptoms of norovirus?
Symptoms of Norovirus are typically gastrointestinal issues including,
Severe stomach ache
Some people may also experience headaches, fever and body ache.
How is it treated?
"No viral diarrhoeas have any specific treatment ', says Dr Fettle. Treatment for norovirus includes symptomatic management and rehydration.
"proper use of standard ORS and regular intake of HAFs (home available fluids), can help," he adds.
The symptoms generally subside within a few days.
How can I protected byself from getting infected?
First and foremost, "soap and water hygiene of your hands after using the toilet is very important,"says Dr Fettle.
"Many parents who have young children often don't practice this. They wash the child and then continue working in the kitchen or whatever they are doing. That way the transmission can occur."Dr Amar Fettle
Being mindful of where you eat out, and generally, maintainting strict hand hygiene can go a long way in preventing the infection.
Apart from this, the US CDC recommends not cooking food for others if you are down with the infection yourself.
"Although it isn't alarming, we need more public, safety, and concern and awareness about food and water hygiene," says Dr Fettle.
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