St Paul, MN (KROC AM News) - The Minnesota Health Department Tuesday reported the arrival of a norovirus strain that has already led to one outbreak.

The department says the new strain (GII.17 Kawasaki) was confirmed in sporadic cases earlier this year. The first outbreak caused by the strain was reported last week.

Illness caused by norovirus is often mistakenly called “stomach flu,” which is confusing because norovirus is not related to influenza. Influenza is a respiratory illness, with symptoms that include high fever, chills, body aches, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, and/or coughing. Norovirus is not a respiratory illness, and is not spread through breathing or coughing. The department says norovirus can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches, a general run-down feeling, and a mild fever. Symptoms typically begin 24 to 48 hours after swallowing the virus, and usually last one to two days.

Norovirus is the most common cause of food-related illness in Minnesota. In a recent outbreak example, employees who had been sick with diarrhea prepared food items that were eaten by restaurant patrons and at least 25 patrons became ill from norovirus.

The majority of norovirus illnesses and outbreaks can be prevented through good handwashing and appropriate food handling.

“Every few years, a new strain of norovirus emerges and causes many illnesses. We don’t know yet if this new strain will lead to an increase in the number of outbreaks reported, but it could,” said Amy Saupe, a foodborne disease epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). “If we’re meticulous about washing our hands and handling food properly, we may be able to limit the impact.”

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