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Summer Brings Tourists and Health Messages
More potential for Norovirus encourages agency
coordination and lots of handwashing


June 18, 2004

Alaska - Recently, more than 400 people aboard a cruise ship in Alaska became ill with Norovirus. With many more cruise ships expected in our communities throughout the summer, as well as thousands of other tourists arriving in Alaska by plane and automobile, the potential is high that we will see additional cases of Norovirus and other infectious

photo Richard Mandsager, M.D.

DHSS Public Health Director Richard Mandsager, M.D.
diseases this summer.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, is coordinating with the CDC and other local, state and federal agencies to help ensure our communities are safe and healthy. State Public Health Nurses are available in most communities to advise local business owners and tourism industry workers on the proper precautions to take to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases like Norovirus. The State also coordinates with the U.S. Coast Guard, the State Emergency Coordination Center, Alaska State Troopers, in addition to local health care facilities and emergency workers in case additional assistance is needed caring for or transporting sick individuals to health care facilities.

"Although many people became sick from the recent Norovirus outbreak, we understand that they are all recovering and hopefully will be able to return to Alaska healthy and happy and ready to tour more of our great state," said DHSS Public Health Director Richard Mandsager, M.D. "We're great hosts and hate to see our guests uncomfortable. Unfortunately we can't cure Norovirus, but we can try to help prevent its spread among our guests and residents," he added.

A Norovirus Prevention Packet is available for download from the Division of Public Health Epidemiology. The packet contains a fact sheet, poster, and information about sanitizing for public or business owners.

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the "stomach flu," or gastroenteritis. Norovirus is a common cause of gastrointestinal illness worldwide. The most common symptoms are nausea with vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. These symptoms occur in all age groups although diarrhea is more common among adults and vomiting is more common in children. Many persons also experience headache, fever, chills and muscle aches. The symptoms may appear from 12-72 hours after exposure to the virus, but usually within 24 to 48 hours.

Noroviruses are predominately spread from person-to-person and some medical reports suggest that the virus can spread through the air during vomiting. Noroviruses are also spread easily by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with feces from an infected person. Less common food-associated outbreaks have been linked to cold prepared, ready to eat foods (e.g., salads, coleslaw, sandwiches) and shellfish harvested in contaminated water. Some outbreaks have also been associated with drinking water and recreational water (e.g., swimming ponds, and beaches).

There is no treatment for Norovirus. Most people recover in two to three days after they become ill. Supportive treatment to prevent dehydration may be needed in severe cases.

Thorough hand washing following toilet use and prior to handling food is the best way to prevent the spread of these viruses. Persons currently ill with diarrhea or vomiting should not handle food, work in day care centers or care for patients in a health care facility until these symptoms have stopped.


A Norovirus Prevention Packet:

pdf Preventing Transmission of Norovirus
pdf How to sanitize
pdf Norovirus Factsheet
pdf Hand washing poster


Additional information on Norovirus can be found on the following websites:

Alaska Division of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Source of News Release:

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
Web Site


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