A 'highly contagious' illness is now spreading through California wildfire shelters

Butte County. Image via Getty Images.
Butte County. Image via Getty Images.

After fleeing the most dangerous wildfire in California state history, a new public health advisory is warning Camp Fire evacuees of a highly contagious virus that’s spreading throughout shelters.

Last week, the Butte County Public Health Department issued an announcement warning displaced persons living in shelters of a recent Norovirus outbreak. According to the county website, at least four shelters have reported symptoms of the gastrointestinal virus, which has infected 145 people as of last week.

At the time of publishing, 25 people had been taken to hospital for treatment, after experiencing diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that Norovirus can be easily transmitted through fecal particles and is often spread through consuming contaminated food or liquids, touching contaminated surfaces and touching your mouth, as well as by directly caring for an infected person.

Washing your hands with soap and water is the easiest way to prevent the spread of Norovirus. Image via Getty Images.
Washing your hands with soap and water is the easiest way to prevent the spread of Norovirus. Image via Getty Images.

According to the CDC website, symptoms typically last for 1-3 days, but there is no treatment for Norovirus, and those infected are at a high risk of becoming dehydrated. Although you may feel better, it is still possible to transmit the virus for another 48 hours after your symptoms reside. Some studies show that people can still pass on the virus for up to two weeks after infection.

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The best course of action to prevent the spread of infection is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water and disinfect contaminated surfaces regularly (toilets, sinks etc.)

Health officials are stressing the importance of staying home if you’re experiencing symptoms to prevent the virus from spreading. However, due to the extensive damage of the fires, many people have no other option but to stay in the contaminated shelters.

The Butte County Public Health Department said it’s working with the Red Cross to help reduce the spread of Norovirus and monitoring shelter residents for virus symptoms on an ongoing basis.

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