A virus that is often confused with food poisoning or stomach flu is being reported in Cheyenne and Casper, according to a release from the Wyoming Department of Health.

Norovirus symptoms typically include, nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps. fatigue and dehydration. It is considered highly contagious according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

While it usually runs its course within 1-3 days, it can be more serious for the very young, elderly people, the disabled and those with compromised immune systems.

Those people should contact a medical professional if they are afflicted with the virus and may require hospitalization, according to WDH surveillance epidemiologist Cody Loveland.

The biggest health issue it poses is severe dehydration, but department of health spokeswoman Kim Deti says in general the virus is "very unpleasant" even for those who are not seriously threatened.

Norovirus is spread when people eat or drink contaminated food and beverages or touch contaminated surfaces. The disease is also spread through contact with people who have the virus. The department is urging the following steps to prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Frequently wash hands, especially after using the restroom or changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
  • If ill, stay home from work and school, especially if employed in food-handling, healthcare or child care.
  •  Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of vomiting or diarrhea with a solution of 1 cup of household bleach per 1 gallon of water and letting the solution sit for one minute.  Always follow manufacturers’ safety precautions.
  •  Immediately remove and wash contaminated clothing or linens after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
  • Flush or discard any vomit and/or poop in the toilet and keep the surrounding area clean.
  • Ill persons should take extra care to avoid spreading the virus by minimizing contact with other persons while ill and practicing good hygiene.