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Eglin AFB reports single norovirus case

By JIM THOMPSON | Northwest Florida Daily News | Published: December 21, 2017

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) -- A norovirus outbreak at nearby Hurlburt Field has prompted Eglin's public health office to issue guidance to the base community on the virus' symptoms and how to prevent it from spreading.

Several days ago, Hurlburt Field reported that it had experienced more than 100 norovirus cases. According to Hurlburt officials, the norovirus was introduced there earlier this month by some children returning from an overseas vacation.

One case of norovirus has been confirmed at Eglin Air Force Base through the base's medical facilities, a base spokeswoman said Wednesday. But it is possible that some Eglin personnel may have used medical facilities outside the base for treatment of norovirus symptoms, and base officials would not be aware of those cases, the spokeswoman said.

Norovirus is extremely contagious. It can be contracted through contact with an infected person, with contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes stomach or intestinal inflammation and can produce nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms can be particularly problematic for young children and older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While Eglin has just one confirmed case of norovirus, its Child Development Centers -- the base's daycare facilities -- "are noticing an increase in gastroenteritis symptoms," the base spokeswoman said in an email. But the email goes on to note that "no cases to date have been confirmed as the norovirus."

Nonetheless, staff at the child development centers "are taking extra precautions to prevent its (norovirus) occurrence and spreading by providing handwashing stations throughout the facilities and deep cleanings," the email noted.

In addition to the precautions at Eglin's childcare facilities, the base's public health office has issued a message advising that "(p)ersonnel who either have symptoms themselves or have someone in their household exhibiting symptoms should coordinate with their supervisor. If mission permits, supervisors should advise members to stay home until 48 hours after all household members have been symptom free."

As Eglin reports its first norovirus case, the outbreak at Hurlburt seems to be coming under control.

When norovirus became an issue at Hurlburt earlier this month, some childcare and youth facilities were closed -- in some cases, more than once -- for disinfection. On Monday of this week, parents bringing children to those facilities were required to sign a checklist confirming their household had been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

Hurlburt is not currently taking any additional steps against the norovirus, a base spokesman said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Eglin's message from the public health office references the norovirus outbreak at Hurlburt and advises that "Team Eglin members should remain vigilant to minimize norovirus disease and transmission in our population."

There is significant interaction between Hurlburt and Eglin personnel, according to the Eglin spokeswoman.

The message to Eglin personnel advises that "(t)o minimize transmission, frequent hand washing is imperative as well as cleaning and sanitizing areas where a sick person has been present." Eglin personnel are also advised to clean contaminated areas with a commercial bleach-based sanitizer or a solution of 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water.

As Hurlburt officials did some days ago, Eglin's public health office advises base personnel that "(m)ost cases of norovirus disease can be managed at home with supportive care (hydration, rest, etc.)."

(c) 2017 the Northwest Florida Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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