Ten area counties and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health have been investigating an outbreak of norovirus infections that occurred among attendees of the Special Kids Day event held Thursday, May 18-19, 2017 at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair Grounds in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
Students and staff from multiple districts in the area are known to have attended this event.
At this time, at least 60 staff and students who attended the event have experienced gastrointestinal illness. Symptoms and testing have confirmed the illness to be caused by Norovirus. Preliminary results suggest that most of the illnesses likely occurred from consuming contaminated food.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can be found in the stool (feces) and vomit of infected individuals. It is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States and it affects about 19-21 million people each year. Symptoms of Norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. The symptoms are typically short in duration, lasting 12-48 hours after exposure to the virus, and most people recover in 2-3 days without requiring medical care. There is no vaccine nor any treatment beyond drinking fluids to stay hydrated.
The virus can stay in the stool of an infected person for 2 weeks or more after people recover. While the virus is most contagious when an individual is experiencing symptoms, it can be spread even after the person feels better. In addition, some people do not have any symptoms.
Norovirus is spread through eating food, drinking liquids, or touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus,” explains Ellen Moldenhauer, Health Officer of the Jackson County Health Department. “While the virus can be spread through the sharing of food or eating utensils with an individual who is infected with the virus, it is not spread through hugging or close contact.”
Even though Jackson County is not involved in this outbreak, Moldenhauer adds that proper hand washing with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers as well as before eating, preparing or handling food, is the best way to prevent the spread of Norovirus.
For more information on Norovirus, please see the State of Wisconsin’s communicable disease fact sheet located online at: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p4/p42075.pdf.