Kerala on high alert after norovirus reported in state

Thiruvananthapuram: State health minister Veena George has called upon the people of Kerala to be on high alert after norovirus was reported in the state.

The rare norovirus was reported among 13 students of a veterinary college in Pookode in Wayanad district of the state two weeks ago. After the health department reported that the virus could be dangerous among children and the elderly, health minister Veena George on Friday had chaired a meeting of doctors and health department officials and called upon the people to be vigilant.

Doctors warned that the elderly and pregnant women should take extra precautions against the disease and wash hands thoroughly before eating.

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The norovirus which is also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ is highly infectious and spreads easily among people leading to diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ache.

Health department doctors said that the disease is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person, contaminated food or touching a contaminated surface, and putting unwashed hands in the mouth.

The most common symptoms of the disease according to doctors are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. In certain cases there is fever, headache and body ache.

The signs and symptoms are seen 12 to 48 hours after the person is exposed to norovirus and it lasts for three to four days. Fresh fruits consumed without proper washing, green vegetables including lettuce and oysters are common carriers of norovirus.

The state health ministry in its guidelines said that fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly before consumption. Crabs and oysters should be cooked well as they could act as carriers of norovirus.

The Kerala health ministry in its guidelines said that those who interact with animals should pay special attention and must use chlorinated water for drinking.

The health department has directed people to stay at home if found infected with norovirus. Doctors said that lots of water should be consumed to prevent dehydration and patients must take rest at home.

Dr Shyamlal Raghavan, Physician and Professor of general medicine at a medical college in Kerala told IANS, “The disease can be fatal in children, elderly and those with comorbidities. The state health department has already issued guidelines and people must abide by them and those who are handling animals must take extra care. Hands must be washed properly before eating food and water tanks and wells must be chlorinated. Take good rest if infected and drink large quantities of water to prevent dehydration.”

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