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Health officials warn of highly-contagious stomach bug

There have been six confirmed cases of the Norovirus so far.

November 26, 2012|Emily Wood, KY3 News | ewood@ky3.com

Branson, Mo. -- The Taney County Health Department issued a warning last week that a highly-contagious stomach bug is being passed from person-to-person.  Epidemiologists confirmed six cases of the Norovirus so far.  The stomach bug causes both vomitting and diarrhea and can last up to three days.

"Typically if you see six cases confirmed that does mean there are others in the community," said Doctor Cassandra Ashley, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Skaggs Hospital in Branson.

"The concern is that it could start spreading like wildfire, because this virus in highly contagious," Ashley said.

According to the Branson Chamber of Commerce, 7 million tourists visit Branson each year.  Many of them travel from hundreds of miles away, presenting a unique challenge for preventing disease.

"Of course it would ruin our vacation, said Mark Horn of Plainfield, Indiana.

Horn and his family traveled to Branson to celebrate the holidays the week after Thanksgiving.

"We're all here together, so it (the virus) could hit 12 people real quick," Horn said.

The hearty virus can easily spread from person-to-person and through contact with shared surfaces.  Taney County Health Department workers said that is what prompted them to alert local businesses.

"With people doing bus activities, eating, touring in big groups, if one person became infected, it could spread throughout that group which could spread throughout the community," Ashley said.

Health professionals are doing their part to keep that from happening while relying relying on tourists and locals to do the same.

"Hopefully we're at the tail end and not the beginning of something here," Ashley said.

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The virus can live on shopping carts, door knobs, sinks, and other surfaces.  Hand washing is the number one way to prevent it.  Doctors also advise wiping surfaces down with bleach.

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