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How to stay healthy during this current virus outbreak

With the recent local outbreak of an intestinal virus affecting thousands of people, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide organization of physicians, is reminding people about the best way to protect yourself against infection washing your hands and offering free educational materials on the subject as well.

Over the last six weeks, nearly 4,000 patients in the Commonwealth have been stricken with an intestinal virus - called novovirus or calicivirus - that causes nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The virus, which has affected people in cities across the country as well, is usually spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by close contact with an infected person. No specific treatment is available for such an infection, but people usually get better within a few days with no long-term effects.

Thus the best protection is prevention, and the best prevention against infection is to wash your hands thoroughly and often with warm soap and water. Handwashing is also a good way to protect against colds and flu.

The Massachusetts Medical Society's free educational materials on hand-washing include a poster, brochure, and coloring book and describe the why's, when's, and how's of proper handwashing. Printed copies are available free in limited quantities by calling 1-800-843-6356. The items are also free by downloading them from the Society's website at They're appropriate for all school ages and make good year-round reminders for adults as well as children.