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Our HealthBY BRIGETTE REICHENBAUGHCalhoun County is experiencing a rise in suspected norovi- rus infection and the flu. We have also been included in the ongoing Southeast Michigan hepatitis A outbreak. Do youknow the difference between the flu and norovirus? Do you know what hepatitis A is? Do you know the best way to stay healthy? Learn the difference and how to protect yourself further!What is Norovirus? Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach, intestines, or both. Norovirus is easily transmitted through food, by person-to-person con- tact, or by contaminated surfaces. It can even be spread through the air when a per- son is vomiting. The typical symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting, diar- rhea, and stomach cramping. Other symp- toms can include headache, chills, muscle aches, and a low-grade fever. SymptomsStaying Healthy This Winterof norovirus illness usually begin about 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, but they can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure. Illness usually lasts one to three days. Norovirus is known incorrect- ly as the “stomach flu.”What are flu symptoms? Sudden onset of illness, chills, headache, stuffy nose, feeling of weakness, fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. In chil- dren, symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and/or feeling really tired.Influenza viruses are spread from person to person, primarily through sneez- ing and coughing. The virus may also be spread through contact with germs on the hands of a sick person or by touching objects or surfaces that have been touched by a sick person.If you have the flu, stay home while you are sick. Staying home greatly reduces the spread of the flu. There is still time to get your flu vaccine!What is hepatitis A? Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A is often transmitted through food or water contaminated with feces; however, within the Southeast Michigan outbreak, no com- mon sources of food, beverages, or drugs have been identified as a potential source of infection.“Very small amounts of stool on peo- ple, objects, surfaces, or in food that is then consumed can put anyone at risk for this disease. Washing your hands with soap and getting vaccinated dramatically decreases one’s risk of getting Hepatitis A,” said Mi- chelle Thorne, Personal Health Manager. ”Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. Illness generally occurs two to six weeks after exposure to the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, yellow skin (jaundice), dark urine, and pale stool. Hepatitis A can be trans- mitted up to two weeks before the onset of symptoms.”The best ways to help prevent hepati- tis A are getting vaccinated and good hand washing. Hepatitis A vaccine is recom- mended as a part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, but most adults have not been vaccinated.What can I do to stay healthy?• Wash hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based cleaner/hand sanitizer (like Purell® or a store-brand). Note: Hand sanitizers have not been prov-en effective or tested for hepatitis A. Washing your hands is the single most important way to stop the spread of influenza.• Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without first washing your hands for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Wash hands before and after using the bathroom.• People who believe they have been exposed to hepatitis A or who have symptoms should contact their health- care provider immediately.For up-to-date information on flu, noro- virus, hepatitis A, vaccination information, or for health department extended clinic hours, visit publichealth or like us on Facebook at Cal- houn County Public Health Department.HandnHandHealthy Hygiene for Healthier Families!Calhoun CountyPublic Health Department269-969-6370 • SCENE 4302 I HEALTH & FITNESS

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