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Stomach virus cases on the rise

January 06, 2017

While many residents and health care officials are worrying about an influx of influenza cases, local hospital staff are concerned about an increase in the number of patients who are paying a visit for gastrointestinal symptoms.

According to information released by the staff at Sampson Regional Medical Center, a large number of patients have presented with intestinal issues like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

“We are continuing to see an increase in the number of patients presenting at the emergency department with gastrointestinal issues,” Connie Wolfe, director of emergency services at SRMC, said.

Just in the first few days of the new year, Wolfe said the emergency department has seen 13 cases of the stomach virus. Those numbers have only risen since the problem peaked in October when a total of 93 patients were seen for the same problems. In November, that number rose to 109 and rose again in December with 122 total cases of the virus.

“So far, there have not been any individuals hospitalized due to the gastrointestinal bug,” Wolfe added.

According to Wolfe, individuals who experience symptoms related to viral gastroenteritis usually begin to feel better on their own in just a couple of days. However, the virus becomes more of an issue when signs of dehydration begin.

“Individuals that experience symptoms of viral gastroenteritis will usually resolve on its own within a couple of days,” Wolfe explained. “However, individuals should seek treatment from a primary care physician, urgent care or emergency room when they see signs of dehydration.”

The signs of dehydration, according to Wolfe, are no urine for eight hours or a decrease in the normal number of wet diapers for infants, no tears when crying or a very dry, tacky mouth, confusion, lethargy, severe pain or bloody stools.

To avoid dehydration, individuals can try to eat small amounts of ice chips or sips of water, or clear broth. Wolfe said infants and small children may need an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte.

“Adults can also use this,” Wolfe said. “Frequent small sips of fluid are important to prevent dehydration. Once individuals are able to tolerate fluids, ease back into eating solid foods with bland, easy to digest foods such as crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas or rice. Avoid diary and caffeine until you feel better.”

“Gastroenteritis is frequently spread by close contact with infected people or touching contaminated surfaces,” Wolfe said. “Frequent hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent the spread. Wiping down surfaces that may have been contaminated with a disinfectant solution frequently will also help.”

Much like preventing the spread of the flu virus, health care officials urge residents to practice good hand hygiene by washing hands often and thoroughly. The disinfecting of surfaces is also important and avoiding close contact with someone who is infected can help prevent the virus from spreading.

Sampson Regional Medical Center has hygiene stations located all all main entrances and throughout the hospital to promote hand washing and the use of face masks. While patients or visitors are not required to wear a mask at the hospital, officials highly encourage the practice to help prevent the spreading of germs