Health Dept.: Viral illnesses on the rise in Rhode Island

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Take care to wash your hands, sneeze and cough into your elbow, and stay home from work or school if you feel ill. Those are just some of the precautions the state Department of Health wants you to take.

The agency Monday said it’s detecting a rise in viral illnesses – like flu and norovirus – throughout the state over the past several days.

While it’s not unexpected this time of year, the health department urged Rhode Islanders to take measures to help stop the spread of illnesses.

More Information: Flu Resource Guide >>

Resources You Need: Flu Fact Sheet » | Norovirus Fact Sheet »

To help keep yourself and your family healthy this winter, health officials urge you to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
    • If soap and warm water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow.
  • If you are sick, stay home from work, school, or childcare.
  • If you are a food handler, healthcare worker, or child care worker and are vomiting or have diarrhea, you must stay home until symptoms have stopped for at least 48 hours.
  • Do not share utensils, water bottles, or other personal items. Many germs that cause viral illness are spread through saliva.
  • Wipe down common items like phones, keyboards, doorknobs, and railings with a disinfectant that contains bleach.
    • You can also use a solution of 5-25 tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of water.
  • If you have not already done so, get your annual flu shot!
    • Flu activity is increasing in Rhode Island, and a flu shot is the easiest and most effective way to help prevent the flu.

“While we expect to see an increase in viral illnesses at this time of year, we know hospital emergency departments are experiencing an increase in patients with respiratory and gastrointestinal illness,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH.  “It is important to protect yourself from getting sick whenever possible, by following the tips to best take care of you and your family this winter.”

Health officials say many viral illnesses need to run their course and require staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest; adding that viruses can not be cured with antibiotics.