Southern Nevada health officials repeated the hand-washing mantra Wednesday after saying at least 200 people in the Las Vegas-area caught a recent stomach bug.
The Southern Nevada Health District said norovirus, a common gastrointestinal illness, has been reported throughout the valley the past few weeks.
Tami Bruno, who investigates diseases for the health district, said the agency started looking into a possible outbreak after Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino reported attendees at a conference the weekend of March 28 were coming down with stomach viruses. Bruno estimated as many as 200 of about 1,200 at the conference were infected.
Norovirus, sometimes called “stomach flu” or “food poisoning,” spreads through human contact, touching contaminated surfaces and infected food. The usual rules for good health can help keep infection away: washing hands after going to the bathroom and before and after handling food, laundry or changing diapers.
Bruno described the virus as intense but short-lived. Antibiotics don’t work on norovirus. Health officials advise anyone who is sick or recovering to stay home from work or school to keep from spreading the infection.
Common symptoms from norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps, with dehydration as the most serious complication. The health district said people can still be contagious for up to two weeks, even after the symptoms disappear.
An estimated 19 million to 21 million cases of norovirus are reported in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Diesease Control. It also kills 570 to 800 people annually, and puts 56,000 to 71,000 people in the hospital each year.
Contact reporter Cassandra Taloma at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0391. Find her on Twitter: @cassandrataloma.