Unwelcome norovirus arrives
One of the holiday season's least-welcome visitors has arrived.
Since the beginning of December, the Interior Health Authority has already recorded 13 outbreaks of norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal infection sometimes known as the "winter vomiting disease".
Dr. Andrew Larder, senior medical-health officer with the IHA, said the virus is far more active in the winter and, like the flu, tends to show up as the Christmas season approaches.
"[The outbreaks] are from schools that had high levels of absenteeism because of vomiting and diarrhea, and there were a few outbreaks in acute-care and residential-care facilities as well," he said.
"And, that's happened right across the health authority — and it's absolutely typical for this time of year."
While Larder would not name the facilities affected by the virus this year, Ridgeview Lodge, a 130-bed care facility on Desmond Street, is one.
Larder said when an outbreak is detected in a care home, staff have a protocol to follow to minimize the virus' spread and the health authority tries to avoid transferring residents out of the home in case they take the bug with them.
Norovirus outbreaks have been reported around the province in the last week.
One outbreak shut down an entire floor of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. A ward at Vancouver General Hospital were also hit.
While sometimes called a stomach flu, Norovirus doesn't have the same symptoms as influenza.
With the flu, sufferers experience sore throats, coughing and other respiratory complaints.
Noroviris sufferers do not.
Instead, those with the infection will typically experience vomiting and diarrhea, as well as fever and muscle pains.
Symptoms usually subside within 24 to 48 hours, while a nasty bout of the flu can take up to 10 days to run its course.
Larder recommends frequent hand-washing to combat the disease's spread.
"The very basic thing is good hygiene," he said. "This thing is spread by what's called the fecal-oral route, so it's spread by getting contaminated virus on your hands and spreading it to your mouth and eyes and lips and things."
Cleaning desktops and work surfaces with a bleach solution can also help keep infections at bay.
Should those preventive measures fail, Larder said the key to dealing with the virus is to stay hydrated and try to stay away from other people. If symptoms persist for more than 48 hours in a child or elderly person, Larder recommends following up with a doctor or calling HealthLinkBC at 811.
REMEMBER GETTING THAT FLU SHOT IN THE FALL?
After two years of late peaks, Kamloops' flu season has returned to its usual patterns.
Larder said reports of flu cases began to increase the week before Christmas.
In the past couple of years, the season has started later than normal, with cases increasing in January and February.
"We're following the absolutely typical time course," Larder said. "We haven't reached peak yet and that'll likely come in the next few weeks."
This year, the predominant strain of influenza is H2N3, which is matched to this year's flu vaccine.
That means those who got the shot should be protected, Larder said.
However, for those without the vaccine, Larder cautions this particular strain of the flu can produce more serious symptoms, particularly in the elderly.