Four norovirus outbreaks detected in Sonoma County in past month

According to Sonoma County Public Health officials, high levels of norovirus have been detected in sewage testing over the past month, with four outbreaks reported during that time.

Officials reported Wednesday that three of the four outbreaks that occurred in June and early July were in health care facilities, including local hospitals.

Officials said the fourth facility was a residential substance abuse treatment center.

County public health officials said they have a policy of not sharing identifying information about individuals or facilities affected by such outbreaks.

Officials said they are working closely with “affected facilities to ensure the health and safety of employees and the public.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is the leading cause of vomiting, diarrhea and foodborne illness in the United States.

It is highly contagious and can survive on surfaces and objects for weeks, spreading rapidly in schools, daycare centers, cruise ships, nursing homes, and health care facilities.

Dr. Leslie Kimura, Sonoma County’s deputy public health officer, stressed the importance and effectiveness of good hygiene.

“Washing your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water is an important preventive step, as hand sanitizer alone is not as effective against norovirus,” Kimura said in an email.

Due to the recent outbreaks and increased detection in wastewater, county officials asked health care providers to consider norovirus when diagnosing acute gastrointestinal illness and to test if necessary.

The region also advises that people who suspect they have norovirus wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

According to Dr. Kimura, summer vacation can reduce the chance of children becoming infected.

“It may be important to emphasize that most schools are closed at the moment, and that may be why we don’t have reports from those locations,” Kimura said.

Outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis in settings such as daycares, hospitals, and multi-occupancy residential facilities should be reported to Sonoma County Public Health Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 707-565-4567, faxing 707-565-4565, or emailing [email protected].

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or [email protected]. On Twitter @pressreno.

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