|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Stan Ashbee|
|Wednesday, 06 February 2013 18:27|
There’s a difference between influenza and norovirus circulating currently in southern Alberta and across the province.
One is respiratory related and the other is gastrointestinal.
“People always say they have the flu but it’s clearly different. Influenza is respiratory — cough, fever, aches and pains, running nose and sore throat. Norovirus causes intestinal stomach symptoms — nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. They’re very distinct,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, south zone medical officer of health from the the public health office at the train station in Lethbridge.
“It’s quite different. That is not flu,” she added.
Suttorp said there is no prevention with immunization for norovirus but its spread can be cut down through hand washing, by not preparing food if you’re sick, staying at home when sick and making sure the environment around you is cleaned properly including washrooms and doorknobs. According to Suttorp, there are three strains of influenza circulating as well as norovirus. “What we’re seeing is sort of a new strain of a new type of noroviris around,” said Suttorp. “Similar to influenza we’ve seen an increase in incidences and an increased number of outbreaks in schools, daycares, seniors facilities and hospitals.”
With influenza, Suttorp noted, it is preventable through influenza immunization and she said the current vaccine covers three different strains of influenza. “It protects you from getting sick three times this season,” said Suttorp. “Secondly of course, we always talk about hand washing and if your sick try to stay home and if you stay home make sure your environment is cleaned appropriately by using household cleaners.”
“Since December we have seen increasing incidents as compared to previous years with exception of the pandemic year of 2009 and to come along with that we get an increased number of outbreaks,” added Suttorp.
According to Alberta Health, influenza, commonly called the flu, is a respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat and lungs. It is caused by a virus easily passed from person to person. Seasonal influenza is the annual influenza that affects people in Canada during the winter, between November and April. Various strains of influenza virus circulate throughout the world each year and influenza viruses change slightly from year to year.
The virus passes from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Tiny drops of moisture (droplets) containing the virus can enter the eyes, nose or mouth of people nearby. Children, especially younger children, individuals with weakened immune systems and those with severe illness may be contagious for a longer period.
One of the best ways, according to Alberta Health, to prevent influenza is to get immunized with the influenza vaccine every year. Clean your hands often with soap and warm water, or hand sanitizer. Eat nutritious food, exercise and get a good night’s sleep to stay as healthy as possible. Cover your cough in your sleeve. Stay at home when you are sick.
People develop symptoms of influenza from one to four days after becoming infected. They can pass on the virus from the day before they have the first symptoms until at least five to seven days after the symptoms start. Symptoms include: fever of 38 C (100.4 F) or higher that starts suddenly; a dry cough that can last for weeks; Headache; an aching body especially in the lower back and legs; feeling very weak and tired. Other symptoms can include: chills; loss of appetite; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; and some people may have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Alberta Health Services state stay home when sick, get plenty of rest and maintain fluid intake to prevent dehydration. These steps are not only sufficient self-care measures for many cases, they are measures that reduce the risk of spreading illness to others and reduce the pressure on the health care system.
Norwalk-like viruses are a common cause of non-bacterial outbreaks of stomach upset. Viral gastroenteritis, often referred to as "winter vomiting disease" or “stomach flu,” is a common illness. It should not be confused with influenza, which is commonly referred to as the “flu”. The virus is easily spread. The main source of the virus is stool (feces) and vomit from infected persons. The virus is most often spread from person-to-person on unwashed hands. The virus can also be spread by food, water or ice that has been handled by a sick person. Vomiting may spread the virus through the air. The virus can survive on surfaces such as countertops or sink taps for a long time.
The main symptoms are sudden onset of nausea and vomiting (common in the young), diarrhea (more common in adults), stomach pain, muscle aches, tiredness, headache and low grade fever. Symptoms generally last between 24 and 48 hours.
Drinking lots of clear fluids while ill is important. If diarrhea or vomiting lasts more than two to three days, see a doctor. If three or more persons are ill at the same time, this should be reported to your local public health unit.
There is no vaccine or medicine that can prevent Norwalk virus infection. Also there are different types of Norwalk-like viruses, so people who have had it once can get the illness again.
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