Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

November 14, 2008

Stomach flu spreading through SW Va., W.Va. hospitals, schools

TAZEWELL, Va. — Health officials in Southwest Virginia are seeing an increase in “stomach flu” activity in local schools and hospitals while only a slight rise has been reported in nearby Mercer County in West Virginia.

The Cumberland Plateau Health District has received reports of increased numbers of individuals experiencing gastroenteritis. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting or diarrhea, according to Robert Parker, a public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health. It is more commonly known as the stomach flu.

The stomach flu is currently spreading through school systems in Southwest Virginia, including Tazewell County.

“We are seeing a slight increase,” Sandy Shortridge, a family nurse practitioner and supervisor of health services for the Tazewell County School Board, said. “We urge parents to keep their children home when they are actively vomiting or having diarrhea. I’m pretty much seeing a mild increase all across the county.”

Other symptoms of the stomach bug include a low-grade fever and stomach cramps. It is contagious. If a child becomes sick in school, Shortridge said parents will be contacted immediately, and the child is normally kept in the school clinic until their parents arrive.

“It usually lasts 24 to 48 hours,” Shortridge said. “It’s a very short-lived virus. Our biggest concern is dehydration Young kids who have other conditions can become dehydrated very quickly. Otherwise, our biggest concern is it doesn’t spread quickly among the (school) population.”

Several sectors in the community have reported increases, including schools, hospitals and long term care facilities, Dr. John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, Director of the Cumberland Plateau Health District, said.

“In the United States, some viral infections tend to happen during cooler months, others can happen year round,” Dreyzehner said in a press release issued by the health district. “We are hearing about more gastroenteritis in our communities and have confirmed norovirus, one of the viruses we commonly see this time of year, in one local facility experiencing a number of cases of gastroenteritis.”

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