DOVER, Del., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. health officials say hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus but they advise washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
The state of Delaware's Division of Public Health urged the public to take precautions to prevent possible exposure and spread of norovirus, an illness that causes vomiting and typically occurs during the winter months but is not related to influenza.
"Gastrointestinal illness caused by norovirus is unpleasant and can be severe for those who are elderly or have an underlying health condition. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Some people may experience fever, chills, headache, muscle aches or a general sense of tiredness," the Division of Public Health said in a statement.
"The symptoms can begin suddenly and an infected person may go from feeling well to very sick in a very short period of time. In most people, the illness lasts for one to two days. People with norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least three days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer."
Infection can be more severe in young children and elderly people and dehydration can occur rapidly and may require medical treatment or hospitalization, officials said.
Surfaces that have been contaminated with stool or vomit should be cleaned immediately and disinfected with a freshly prepared diluted bleach solution -- one part bleach: 10 parts water -- or a bleach-based household cleaner, but never use undiluted bleach, officials said.
"If you are ill with vomiting or diarrhea, you should not go to work, school or attend daycare," officials advised.