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RAF LAKENHEATH, England — U.S. military communities might have dodged the latest outbreak of norovirus that has plagued the United Kingdom and left many with bouts of diarrhea and vomiting.

The RAF Lakenheath hospital — the largest military facility in the region — reported an average number of cases of the highly contagious virus over the past two weeks. The base did not release the number of cases by deadline.

“We have not experienced anything out of the norm,” Lt. Col. Steven Hinten, the base’s public health flight commander, said Monday. “There were a couple of spots in December that we saw a rise in numbers, but it was not an issue to be concerned [with].”

Norovirus, also known as winter vomiting virus, is a group of illnesses that commonly cause stomach flu, or gastroenteritis. Symptoms last about a day or two and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping.

Infected people also may have a slight fever, chills, headache and muscle aches, according to the British Health Protection Agency. The agency estimates that noroviruses sicken between 600,000 and 1 million people in the U.K. each year.

Thousands of people in the U.K. have already succumbed to the latest outbreak, considered to be the worst in five years, The Associated Press reported last week.

The report also said that doctors projected hundreds of thousands of more people could be affected by norovirus in the near future. Dozens of hospital wards were sealed to stop the virus’ spread, the report added.

So far, U.S. military communities seem almost immune.

The RAF Upwood clinic, which also treats patients from RAFs Alconbury and Molesworth, hasn’t treated anyone for the virus in the past two weeks, according to spokeswoman Tech. Sgt. Kristina Barrett.

Lakenheath High School’s registered nurse, Nancy Healy, said only one student came in with a norovirus-related illness on Monday. Feltwell Elementary reported none.

In order to prevent virus infection, Hinten stressed proper hand washing.

“That’s the real key,” he said. “Not [just] for this type of thing but to prevent any respiratory illnesses as well.”

Those who become ill are advised to keep away from work or hospitals until it passes to eliminate the risk of exposing others.

“Consider staying home until you know that you don’t have to run to the bathroom every hour,” Hinten said.

Hospital care is typically not needed for these types of quick-lived illnesses, he added.

Also, there currently is no antiviral medication or vaccine to treat or prevent noroviruses. Antibiotics cannot be used to treat the viruses because they are used to fight bacteria, according to the West Suffolk Hospital Web site.

Infected people vomiting and with diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, the Web site added.

Avoiding norovirusesNoroviruses can cause stomach bugs. Symptoms last about a day or two and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping. Infected people may also have a slight fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a feeling of tiredness.

People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:

Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.

Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth.

Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, caring for someone with the illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

Persons working in day-care centers or nursing homes should pay special attention to children or residents who have norovirus illness. This virus is very contagious and can spread rapidly throughout such environments.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Students seek chance at robotic glory


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