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February 8, 2008
Handwashing key to preventing “stomach flu” as season peaks in Toronto
Toronto Public Health is reminding the public that careful handwashing is key to preventing Norovirus infections, commonly referred to as “stomach flu,” which are more prevalent in the winter months and typically peak in January and February.

Symptoms of these infections include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches, and a mild fever. Symptoms may last up to three days, and most people recover without medical attention.

“Although these viruses can make you feel really bad for a couple of days, they generally do not cause serious illness for healthy individuals,” said Dr. Herveen Sachdeva, Associate Medical Officer of Health for Toronto Public Health. “However, they are highly contagious and so we advise people who are sick to stay home, stay well hydrated and call their doctor if their symptoms last longer than a couple of days.”

Noroviruses are present in the stool and vomit of infected people and are spread primarily through person-to-person contact, or contamination of food prepared by a person with the illness. The following precautions can help prevent the spread of noroviruses:
  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before eating and before handling food or ice
  • If you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting, stay home from school, day nursery or work until you are symptom-free for at least 48 hours. This is especially important for those who work with food, the elderly or at a hospital.
  • Discard foods that were handled or prepared by someone with possible norovirus symptoms - unless the food will be thoroughly cooked before serving.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect all surfaces where ill people are staying (bedroom, washroom, etc).

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:

Susan Sperling, Media Relations Co-ordinator, Toronto Public Health, 416-338-7974,



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