MY BOUT WITH NOROVIRUS
I came down with an embarrassing and debilitating case of gastroenteritis last weekend thanks (most likely) to norovirus, “the perfect human pathogen”. I was sitting in the cinema, watching Zero Dark Thirty, when a wave of nausea swept over me. I just barely made it to the hallway garbage can… then proceeded to puke up dinner. Onlookers gawked in disgust. One kind old woman yelled, “Yuck! I’ll get a janitor.” I spent the rest of the evening sitting on/huddling over the toilet.
It wasn’t until yesterday –FIVE DAYS after my movie theater episode– that I finally began to feel alive again. I became conscious of our LIBR 281 course and became particularly interested in the dissemination of health information as it may help those afflicted with norovirus.
PUBLIC INFORMATION NEEDS AND NOROVIRUS ILLNESS SURVEILLANCE
It is no secret that norovirus is sweeping through the U.S. and the world; many people learn about the epidemic through conversations with friends/family, posts and tweets on social media sites, or stories in the news. As I found, however, the information disseminated through those actors and agencies is not as detailed as one actually needs once the virus strikes… For instance, some of the questions I needed answered included:
- What are the norovirus symptoms? How severe are they? How long do they last?
- How does the virus spread? How might contamination be prevented?
- Is there treatment for norovirus? Symptom relief?
- What steps should one take to avoid infecting others? For how long should those steps be followed?
I googled “norovirus” and linked to the resulting WebMD and CDC sites to find answers to my questions. I was most surprised to read CDC’s Reporting and Surveillance for Norovirus page. I learned that, despite existing electronic laboratory surveillance and reporting systems (NORS and CaliciNet), state and local health departments rarely report individual cases of norovirus illness. This is just one of many factors contributing to the inexact estimates of norovirus incidence. Also, most hospitals and health clinics do not have capability to test for norovirus, even if patients do seek medical treatment.