HPA identifies cause of outbreak as norovirus

People wait at a flu clinic. (File Photo/Sun/Fayaz Moosa)

Health Protection Agency (HPA) has identified the cause of the outbreak that has put hospitals in the Maldivian capital on alert as a type of norovirus - a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Hospitals in the capital, including the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), the ADK Hospital, and the Senahiya Hospital, received hundreds of patients presenting with the symptoms on Friday alone.

Most of the patients were children.

On Friday, HPA refuted speculations the illness was caused by a specific food, stating that preliminary epidemiological investigations show the surge appeared to be caused by a virus.

In a statement on Saturday, HPA announced it has identified the cause of the outbreak as norovirus.

The health agency warned the norovirus is highly contagious, especially in closed and crowded places.

HPA urged people to wash their hands often using soap, warning that hand sanitizer alone isn’t enough to prevent infection.

HPA also asked people to be careful when cleaning up vomit or feces.

The agency advised people to use a tissue or paper towel and then safely dispose of it, before using bleach for at least 5 minutes to decontaminate the area, and then use soap or another cleaning solution.

The most common symptoms of the norovirus are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain.

HPA asked people who exhibit the symptoms not to be involved in the preparation of food until at least 24 hours after the symptoms disappear.

People has been urged against public gatherings.

The sudden surge in cases of the norovirus had come during the Independence Day holiday, which has been a large number of people travel domestically and take part in public festivities.

The outbreak caused festivities to get cancelled on Friday.