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Stomach Flu Spread By Contaminated Computer Keyboards
Date:1/3/2008

Norovirus can live on surfaces for several days, experts say,,,,

THURSDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- The highly contagious norovirus, often called the stomach flu, can be passed from one person to another through contact with commonly shared items such as computer keyboards and computer mice, U.S. health officials report.

The virus, which is common in winter and is the most frequent cause of outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea in the United States, is often contracted in schools, at work and on cruise ships.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on a norovirus outbreak at a Washington, D.C., elementary school last February in which some of the victims picked up the virus from contaminated computer equipment.

"There is evidence that shared objects and surfaces help transmit disease," said Dr. Shua Chai, a CDC epidemiologist and co-author of the report, published in the Jan. 4 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"This is the first time that we have demonstrated that keyboards and computer mice can be a source of transmission of norovirus," he added.

Of the 314 students and 66 staffers at the D.C. school, 103 came down with the illness -- 79 students and 24 staff members. To find the sources of contamination, samples were taken from various surfaces around the school. In one first-grade classroom, a computer mouse and keyboard tested positive for norovirus, according to the report.

The virus can live on surfaces for several days, Chai said. To prevent infection with the virus, people should wash their hands after using shared objects, and computer keyboards and mice should be disinfected regularly with diluted bleach, he said.

"In addition, people who are ill should stay home for one to three days after they have had their last symptom, because they continue to shed the virus and can still contaminate objects," Cha
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