New Mexico and Navajo health officials warn of increase in stomach flu cases

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Department of Health and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service are warning residents about rising cases of the norovirus, often called the stomach flu, and recommend people take more precautions to prevent illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus outbreaks are common and the highly contagious virus spreads "very easily and quickly."

It can pass on easily from person to person and be transmitted through contaminated food or water and by touching contaminated surfaces.

A person typically becomes sick within 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the norovirus. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

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In some cases, a person may have low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches or feel tired. Most people feel better within one to three days.

The state Department of Health recommends people exercise caution, especially when around youth, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

"They are at risk for more serious illness due to norovirus infection," the department's press release states.

"With more people vaccinated against COVID-19 and returning to public life, this common illness is making a comeback. Unlike COVID-19 however, there is no vaccination to help prevent norovirus infection," state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in the release.

The Navajo Area IHS stated in a press release that some areas of the Navajo Nation and bordering states have reported an increase in cases.

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"Anyone can get norovirus illness. Norovirus illness can be serious," the release states.

According to both health agencies, the best way to prevent the transmission of norovirus is frequent handwashing. However, hand sanitizer does not work against it.

The Navajo Area IHS offered tips to staying safe, including washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, handling and preparing food safely, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and washing laundry thoroughly.

If you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others. If symptoms develop, stay home and contact your health care provider before seeking medical care due to the virus' high transmission rate.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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