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Tips for preventing and treating norovirus — a contagious disease sweeping across Maryland

Maryland hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, are part of a payment experiment that provides new incentives to keep people in good health.
Patrick Semansky
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore City.

Norovirus, better known as the stomach flu, is making its way around daycares, schools and other areas where children spend their time.

The illness usually only lasts a couple days and common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, but the situation can become dangerous, especially in young children.

Consider these health tips from Dr. Barry Solomon, chief of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, for prevention and care.

The best offense is a good defense

Start with prevention. Norovirus is highly infectious and contagious. Wash your hands frequently and make sure your children are as well.

“Washing with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds,” Solomon said. “Also, clean surfaces that are frequently touched and used.”

Dr. Matthew Laurens, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center says norovirus spreads through particles expelled from feces and vomit.

Those particles are stubborn and often hand sanitizer won’t work in neutralizing them.

Dehydration is the enemy

Solomon, the Johns Hopkins doctor, says if you or your child are stuck with norovirus, then the most important task is to stay hydrated.

“In young infants, we often say more than six to eight wet diapers per day is what we would expect,” he said. “If parents and caregivers are seeing that number drop off, that would be concerning.”

Other warning signs are babies crying without creating tears.

For older children, make sure they are urinating often and that urination is clear and not dark yellow.

Electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte are good for quick hydration, Solomon said.

When to seek help

Signs of dehydration are the first warnings that a child needs to be brought to a medical professional, the Johns Hopkins doctor said.

It’s best to call a pediatrician, but going to the emergency room is another option if a doctor isn’t available right away.

Usually IV fluids will get children back to the levels they need.

Each year across the U.S., norovirus is responsible for 900 deaths, about 109,000 hospitalizations and 1 million pediatric medical care visits.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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