norwalk(1).gifIn the midst of a deadly outbreak of listeriosis that has sickened at least 55 people in 14 states, including 1 confirmed illness in Montana, the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) just recently reported that it has been receiving many reports of gastroenteritis outbreaks in schools, child day care settings and nursing homes.

Since early September, several hundred people throughout the state have experienced vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea lasting 24 to 48 hours.  In those outbreaks where laboratory testing was performed, norovirus was found to be the cause of the illnesses.  

Norovirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis, or what we commonly think of as stomach flu symptoms. It causes 23 million cases of gastroenteritis per year, or over half of all gastroenteritis cases in the U.S., and is the second most common virus after the common cold. 

The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly. Norovirus is usually transmitted from the feces to the mouth, either by drinking contaminated food or water or by passing from person to person. Because noroviruses are easily transmitted, are resistant to common disinfectants, and are hard to contain using normal sanitary measures, they can cause extended outbreaks.

Anna Whiting Sorrell, Director of the Montana DPHHA suggests that “[t]o protect yourself and others it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often, stay at home if you are ill with diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea, and never prepare food for others if you sick with any of these symptoms.“

For more information about norovirus, visit

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Photo of Claire Mitchell Claire Mitchell

Claire received her J.D. degree from Hofstra University School of Law with a concentration in Energy and the Environment in May 2010. She received her B.A., majoring in English, from Villanova University, magna cum laude. During law school, Claire served as Articles Editor for the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, was elected President of the Legal Emergency Aid Project and elected Treasurer of Hofstra Law Women. She is currently pursuing an LL.M. degree in Food and Agricultural Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law. In August 2010, Claire was selected as the recipient of the Marler Clark Graduate Assistantship, part of a new public/private partnership that will allow the University of Arkansas School of Law to partner with leaders in the food and agricultural legal communities. Although she began the LL.M. Program in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Claire is now living in Seattle in order to devote more time to her work at Marler Clark and is completing her LL.M. degree through distance learning. In addition to her academic and professional commitments, Claire blogs on Food Poison Journal and has been published in the Food and Drug Law Institute’s Update and the American Agricultural Law Association’s Update.