A sharp increase in gastrointestinal illness identified by the El Paso County Public Health Department is connected to an infection caused by norovirus. They say that since December 1, five gastrointestinal outbreaks were reported in institutional-type settings.
The illness is not related to the flu, the Health Department says. Norovirus is a highly contagious intestinal infection.
It remains contagious from the moment a person begins feeling sick until at least two or three days after they recover.
Symptoms of norovirus usually include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping. Illness usually begins within a day after exposure and lasts as long as two days.
It can be especially serious in children, the elderly and people with other preexisting conditions because it can lead to severe dehydration.
Norovirus is spread by an infected person who does not wash their hands thoroughly. The germ can also be found on contaminated surfaces, such as areas in a bathroom that an ill person is using or on tabletops.