Thiruvananthapuram: The state’s health minister, Veena George, has called on the people of Kerala to be on high alert after norovirus was reported in the state.
The rare norovirus was reported among 13 students at a veterinary college in Pookode in the state’s Wayanad district two weeks ago. After the health department reported that the virus could be dangerous among children and the elderly, Health Minister Veena George chaired a meeting of doctors and health department officials on Friday and asked people to be vigilant.
Doctors cautioned that the elderly and pregnant women should take extra precautions against the disease and wash their hands thoroughly before eating.
Norovirus, which is also known as the ‘winter vomiting virus’, is highly infectious and spreads easily between people, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
Doctors from the health department said the disease is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person, contaminated food, or touching a contaminated surface and putting unwashed hands in the mouth.
The most common symptoms of the disease according to doctors are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. In certain cases there is fever, headache and body ache.
Signs and symptoms are seen 12 to 48 hours after a person is exposed to norovirus and lasts for three to four days. Fresh fruits that are consumed without proper washing, vegetables such as lettuce and oysters are common carriers of norovirus.
The state health ministry in its guidelines said that fruits and vegetables should be washed well before consuming them. Crabs and oysters should be cooked well, as they could act as carriers of norovirus.
The Kerala Ministry of Health in its guidelines said that those who interact with animals should pay special attention and should use chlorinated water for drinking.
The health department has ordered people to stay home if they are found to be infected with norovirus. Doctors said that a lot of water should be consumed to prevent dehydration and patients should rest at home.
Dr Shyamlal Raghavan, a physician and professor of general medicine at a medical school in Kerala told IANS: “The disease can be fatal in children, the elderly and people with comorbidities. The state health department has already issued guidelines and people must adhere to them and those who handle animals must take special care. Hands should be washed properly before eating food, and water tanks and wells should be chlorinated. Get plenty of rest if you are infected and drink large amounts of water to avoid dehydration. “