Public health officials are advising that a stomach virus is circulating in New Brunswick and asking those experiencing symptoms to stay home from work, school or daycare for at least 48 hours to help prevent its spread.
Symptoms of the bug also known as norovirus include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
"Norovius can cause very unpleasant symptoms for a healthy person but for those with weakened immune systems it can cause serious illness," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's acting chief medical officer of health, said in a news release.
Symptoms usually appear suddenly, about 24 to 48 hours after the person becomes infected. The symptoms typically last between eight to 12 hours and people normally recover in 48 hours.
"It is important for people to stay home during the 48-hour recovery period," the department news release said. "This is especially critical for those who handle food or work with those who have compromised immune systems."
Cases of norovirus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities, schools, daycares and special care homes, the release said.
Chaleur hospital outbreak
The Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst reported an outbreak on March 17 on some units of its fourth floor. Norovirus was confirmed March 22.
Jean-René Noël of Vitalité Health Network said the situation at the hospital has improved and visiting restrictions remain in place for only one unit.
"Due to the virus being highly infectious, it is common to see outbreaks within families and group settings where people are in close contact with one another," the release said.
Regional medical officer of health Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey said there has been one confirmed outbreak in the province and the department is investigating several other suspected outbreaks.
The office of the chief medical officer of health started collecting information about norovirus outbreaks in 2015. There were 25 outbreaks reported to public health in 2015 and seven outbreaks in 2016.
Two or more confirmed cases in a setting such as a hospital or daycare are considered an "outbreak" by public health.
Lamptey said the number of confirmed outbreaks doesn't always reflect the actual number of outbreaks under investigation because of the difficulty in confirming cases where public health is notified after the symptoms are gone and there is no way to obtain stool samples to confirm the virus.
The department said people can protect themselves and help reduce the spread of norovirus by washing their hands frequently and regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that commonly touched if they are ill or caring for someone who has the virus.
Not the same as influenza
Norovius is not the same as the flu, which is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.
As of March 18, there had been nine deaths associated with influenza in the province.
There had also been 230 hospitalizations associated with influenza, including 24 admissions to intensive care units.