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NEW INFORMATION: Norovirus suspected at Lake Wazee

By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email
By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email

NEWS RELEASE FROM JACKSON COUNTY:

The Jackson County Health Department in collaboration with Jackson County Forestry and Parks began an investigation Monday July 9th after receiving notification of several persons who became ill after swimming in Lake Wazee Beach area on July 4th. Initially food poisoning was suspected, however after investigation, the water in the beach area is thought to be a potential source for illness.

Jackson County Health Officer, Christine Hovell has stated at this time there have been over 170 persons confirmed ill with vomiting, diarrhea, headache, nausea, stomachache fever and body aches. Illness does seem to be resolving itself in most persons after about 24-36 hours.

Testing of lake water by USDA officials has not proven any conclusive organism, however markers for fecal contaminants were found to be present in the beach water. Ecoli and blue green algae appear not to be factors in causing the illness. Norovirus is being suspected due to onset and symptoms of ill individuals. Samples from several ill persons have been sent to the WI State Lab of Hygiene for testing and results are pending.

Jackson County Forestry and Parks Administrator, Jim Zahasky states that Lake Wazee Beach will remain closed through this weekend. Christine Hovell, Jackson County Health Officer states that according to experts at USDA this will allow natural elements such as warm weather and UV lighting from the sun to destroy human contaminants in the water. The water at the beach will be retested on Monday July 16, to assure that it is safe for swimming and will reopen if testing determines it is safe to do so.

For persons who are interested in scuba diving or fishing in the larger area of the lake, the Health Department is requesting persons wash their hands after being in the lake and that all scuba equipment be cleaned thoroughly.

The Health Department would also like to remind persons who are performing any recreational activity in a lake, river or stream to wash their hands prior to eating.

NOROVIRUS FACT SHEET

What are noroviruses?
Noroviruses (previously called Norwalk viruses, caliciviruses, or SRSVs) are a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans, often referred to as "stomach flu". However, noroviruses are
completely unrelated to influenza, a respiratory virus.

Who gets a norovirus infection?
Anyone can become infected with noroviruses. There are many different strains of norovirus, which makes it difficult for a person to develop a long-lasting immunity and norovirus infections may occur
throughout a person's lifetime. In addition, because of differences in genetic factors, some people are
more likely to become infected and develop more severe illness than others.

How are noroviruses spread?
The norovirus enters through the mouth, multiplies in the body, and is passed in the highly infectious stool or vomit of an infected person. If careful hand washing with soap is not done, the virus can be
carried on an infected person’s hands. If the infected person then handles food or drink that someone else consumes, the virus can be transmitted to others. Food associated outbreaks have been linked to cold prepared, ready-to-eat foods (e.g., salads, coleslaw, sandwiches or desserts) and shellfish harvested in contaminated waters. Outbreaks have also been associated with drinking water and recreational water (e.g., swimming ponds and beaches) where persons may have ingested water
contaminated with fecal matter from an infected person.

Direct person-to-person contact or environmental contamination (e.g., exposure to areas where fecal accidents or vomiting has occurred) may also be a route of transmission.

What are the symptoms of a norovirus infection?
The most common symptoms are a sudden onset of vomiting, watery, non-bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and headache. The symptoms occur in all age groups, but vomiting is more common in children. Many persons may also experience low-grade fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue.

How soon after exposure will symptoms appear?
The symptoms may appear from 12-60 hours after exposure to the virus, but usually occur within 24-
48 hours.

How infectious are noroviruses?
Noroviruses are highly infectious and a very small number of virus particles may result in symptomatic infections. Both stool and vomit are infectious.

For how long is a person infectious?
The virus is very easily passed from person-to-person from the time of symptom onset and up to 48 hours after diarrhea or vomiting.

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STORY FROM 7/10/2012

BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - "I come probably once a week in the summer," said Taylor Thomley.

He and Claire Aschenbrenner love spending the afternoon on the beach. The lake in front, the sun above. And on what is normally a bustling beach, today they have it to themselves.

"I keep telling her this is unreal, we have the whole place to ourself," Thomley said.

But there is a reason they have it to themselves. Away from the clear water and white sandy beach, a reminder of reality. The Health Department says 47 people have fallen ill after swimming here around July 4th.

"What we're seeing is people with stomach flu-like illness mostly vomiting and some persons have diarrhea," said Christine Hovell, the Public Health Manager for Jackson County.

Along with that, people are also experiencing body aches and headaches, Hovell said. Now, they are still trying to figure out why.

We really don't know what's causing it, we have some suspicions but we're going to wait for some confirmatory testing," Hovell added.

And until answers come in, Jackson County wants people to stay out.

"There's other great things to do on the beach or there's other activities like trails, camping and stuff, but we're asking people just to stay out of the water for now," said Jim Zahasky.

Back at the beach, Taylor and Claire say they have seen some people throughout the day spot the signs and turn around. But they say they are not worried.

"I'm not at all, I mean I was here on Sunday," Thomley said.

They say they are willing to risk it, not knowing what may have caused so many to get sick in Lake Wazee's water.

"We kind of assumed it's mostly just a mixture of heat, I don't know could be other things too," Thomley added.

Anyone with questions or concerns should call the Jackson County Health Department at (715) 284-4301.


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