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Brunswick Co. Health Officials Confirm Case Of Norovirus At Hurricane Shelter

Rising water from the Cape Fear River engulfs a road in Fayetteville, N.C., Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2018. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest at record levels by Wednesday, several days after the storm departed the area.
Ben McKeown
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For WUNC
Rising water from the Cape Fear River engulfs a road in Fayetteville, N.C., Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2018. The Cape Fear River was expected to crest at record levels by Wednesday, several days after the storm departed the area.

Brunswick County health officials confirmed one case of norovirus at a hurricane shelter, and they suspect more.

The confirmed case was reported at the shelter at West Brunswick High. Health officials asked that evacuees find other shelters, including one at South Brunswick High.

The highly contagious virus causes gastrointestinal problems including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Health officials said other evacuees showed similar symptoms but had not been tested for the actual virus.

As floodwaters continue to drain toward the coast, officials have kept areas of the county under mandatory evacuation, particularly areas around Lake Waccamaw.

Brunswick County Health Department Spokeswoman Amanda Hutcheson said emergency personnel are doing their best to contain the virus.

"We are taking measures to isolate people who do show symptoms. Our staff has been working very hard to disinfect the shelter," she said. "They have protocols in place when there is a shelter set up like that, to disinfect, to clean, and they have pulled in a few extra people to help with that."

Norovirus outbreaks have become more common in recent years.
Credit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Norovirus outbreaks have become more common in recent years.

Norovirus outbreaks have become more common in the United States in recent years. North Carolina saw fewer than 30 outbreaks per year on average in the late 1990s and 2000s, but that increased sharply in recent years, including to 132 cases in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Norovirus is common in settings with many people in close quarters – like a shelter, according to CDC. Although it spreads easily, those who are infected typically experience symptoms for only a few days and rarely have long-term negative effects.

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