The Iowa Department of Public Health has received reports of several medium to large outbreaks of probable norovirus  in at least five Iowa counties. Deputy state epidemiologist Ann Garvey says the virus causes flu-like symptoms.

“Really what it is, is a couple of days of vomiting and diarrhea, it usually resolves on its own, and there really aren’t any long term health effects, but it does make you real miserable,” Garvey says. The I.D.P.H. says three groups of people became ill after eating at a restaurant where several food handlers had also been sick.

Outbreaks were also associated with events like holiday parties and holiday potlucks. She says it’s important to remember the illness is quickly spread from person to person.

“If you are ill or if you’ve ill in the last two days we do not recommend that you cook the meal for others. So if you been sick, let someone else cook the meal for your friends and family,” Garvey says.

The health department recommends if you had any stomach illness, you should not prepare food of any kind for others until 48 hours have passed. Garvey also recommends frequent hand washing to prevent spreading the illness.