Friday, August 26, 2016

Avoiding Norovirus

With the onset of the new school year, Grinnell Regional Public Health advises taking precautionary steps of handwashing and avoiding school or work while ill to avoiding the spread of illnesses such as noroviruses. Norovirus has been identified in the community.

The most common symptoms are nausea with vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. People of all ages have these symptoms. Diarrhea is more common among adults; vomiting is more common in children. Many persons (25 to 50 percent) also experience headaches, fevers, chills, and muscle aches. Illness usually lasts 24 to 48 hours. There are no known long-term effects.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, there are no treatments for the virus, only symptom management. However, dehydration can be a complication. If you become ill, drink fluids and rest. Do not interact with people until 72 hours after the end of symptoms.

The symptoms may appear 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus, but onset may range from 10 to 50 hours after exposure. Norovirus are most commonly spread through the fecal-oral route, either by consumption of food or water contaminated with stool or by direct person-to-person spread. The virus can also be spread by contact with objects contaminated with stool and by spread due to the virus in the air after someone vomits. This may result in droplets landing on surfaces or entering the mouth and being swallowed. Noroviruses are also spread from person to person, especially among family members. 

Hand sanitizer is not effective with the norovirus. Soap and water with thorough washing is required to stop the spread of norovirus.  People can pass the virus to others while sick, and up to 72 hours after diarrhea has stopped.  Anyone ill with diarrhea, vomiting or fever should not work with food, the elderly, in health care, or child care. Anyone working in these occupations who becomes ill with these symptoms should leave work. Food recently prepared by this person should be discarded.

Individuals with norovirus symptoms should take precautions to avoid the spread of the virus. For more information about care, contact your primary care provider. For information about noroviruses, contact Grinnell Regional Public Health at 641-236-2385.

Q& A from Senior Health Insurance Information Program

Local SHIIP counselor Montie Redenius provided answers to a common question about Medicare.

QUESTION: I currently work for a company that includes health insurance and prescription drug coverage as part of my compensation package. I will turn 65 in two months at which time I plan to retire. After my employment ends, my health insurance and prescription drug coverage also end. What are my options?

ANSWER: First, you must decide whether you going to start drawing Social Security at age 65 or are you going to delay drawing it? If you are going to start drawing your Social Security, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (physician services). The premium for Part B (there is no additional premium for Part A) will be deducted automatically from your Social Security payment.

If you are married and your spouse is still working for an employer with 20 or more employees and you can be covered under your spouse’s employer health plan, you can defer Part B coverage until such time as your spouse quits working. At that time, you will have to re-enroll in Part B. If there are less than 20 employees, the employer plan does not have to pay primary and you may need to enroll in both Medicare Parts A and B.

If you are going to delay drawing your Social Security, you will have to contact Social Security to enroll in Medicare Parts A&B. If you do not draw Social Security, you will be billed quarterly for the premium.

Medicare has deductibles and co-payments so you might want to consider purchasing a Medicare supplement plan that will cover these health expenses plus some additional coverage not offered by Medicare. Medicare and Medicare supplements do not cover prescription drugs so you will want to purchase a prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D). You can enroll in this plan yourself by going to or you can receive free assistance from a SHIIP counselor who can help you compare the various plans available.

Another option is to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan. This policy is issued by a private insurance company so your Medicare coverage will be provided by them. The Medicare Advantage Plan includes Medicare Part A and B and may include Part D coverage. You still have to pay the Part B premium, which Social Security will withdraw from your Social Security payment. The main difference is that the Medicare Advantage plans have networks so you have to make sure your medical service providers are in the network and will accept the plan.

If you still have questions, you may contact a SHIIP volunteer at Grinnell Regional Medical Center by calling 641-236-2588. Four SHIIP volunteers are available to help you in Poweshiek County.