The state’s epidemiologist is warning Iowans who’ve been sick that they should not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Dr. Patricia Quinlisk and other state public health officials have identified at least one-thousand cases of “norovirus” in the past two weeks. “Unfortunately, this virus is one that causes outbreaks very easily,” Quinlisk says. “Because it takes a very little amount to get sick, it can really get in and make lots of people ill.”
Dozens of school children in Manchester were sickened by a strain of the virus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, public health officials in have been at least six other outbreaks in Iowa, including outbreaks centered at an eastern Iowa casino, a couple of Iowa nursing homes and a central Iowa restaurant. “The good news is this virus is relatively mild. It usually gives people a day or two of diarrhea and then they recover completely, so there’s no long-lasting consequences,” Quinlisk says. “But you’re pretty miserable for a day or two.”
If you’ve suffered through that kind of misery this week, Quinlisk advises you to stay out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. “If you’ve had any diarrhea anytime in the past several day — even if you had diarrhea a couple of days ago — this virus could still be in your system and what you need to do is tell everybody else that this is the Thanksgiving that you’re going to sit and watch the football game and everybody else gets to be in the kitchen cooking,” Quinlisk says. “You really don’t want to be touching anybody else’s food. Unfortunately this virus can get on your hands and even with good handwashing sometimes can make other people ill if you touch their food.”
Dr. Quinlisk advises the women who think the fate of Thanksgiving rests on their hands to sit this one out if you’ve had diarrhea in the past week. “This is the Thanksgiving to sit on your hands, not touch any food and have everybody else make that wonderful meal for you,” Quinlisk says.
The epidemiologist says many people misidentify sickness caused by norovirus as the stomach flu. It is not the flu because the flu causes problems in the body’s respiratory system, not the digestive system.