Wyoming Department of Health officials say the flu-like norovirus is probably helping drive an increase in reports of illness in the Cowboy State.

That's according to a news release put out on Friday.

The release says norovirus symptoms typically include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, and dehydration, all symptoms commonly associated with the flu. While infections such as e.coli can also cause similar symptoms, norovirus is thought to be a more common cause. The virus is spread when people eat contaminated food, touch contaminated surfaces, or come into contact with people who are already sick. According to the release

Matt Peterson, WDH surveillance epidemiologist, said contamination is almost always not obvious. “We’re often talking about extremely tiny amounts of poop or vomit. We can’t see it but it can make us very sick,” he said

“When people get ill this way, they most often blame the last thing they ate, but norovirus and bacterial illness can spread through many routes other than just eating food,” Peterson said.

Illness can hit quickly between 12 to 48 hours after a person has been exposed. Symptoms usually last from one to three days and go away without causing long-term problems. 

“Norovirus and other illnesses with similar symptoms can be serious when people become dehydrated,” Peterson said. He noted those who become severely ill may need to call or visit a medical professional.  Infants, young children, immune-compromised persons, and persons unable to care for themselves, such as the disabled or elderly, are at higher risk for dehydration and may need hospitalization.

The release says cases of the potentially severe e.coli infection are also being seen. Parents are being advised to get their kids to a doctor if the children suffer from stomach illnesses that don't improve after 72 hours or if they suffer from bloody diarrhea.

Frequent hand-washing and generally good hygiene are being recommended for protection against all flu-like illnesses.

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