In Brief

16-year-olds can donate blood

— Thanks to a new bill that passed in the House recently, the American Red Cross Great Lakes Blood Services Region will soon be able to accept blood donations from 16-year-olds who have written parental/guardian consent.

This means that now even more high school students can help save lives by donating blood. The American Red Cross is excited to spread awareness that blood donation is something a 16-year-old student can do to make a difference in their community.

“Many of our committed donors began donating blood while they were in high school. As our donor base continues to age, it is important to educate a group of young donors about the importance of a safe and stable blood supply,” said Sharon Jaksa, CEO of the American Red Cross Great Lakes Blood Services Region.

Any 16-year-old who would like to donate blood should visit or call the eligibility hotline at 866-236-3276 to find out more information. Before donating, 16-year-olds must review a few materials and have a parent or guardian sign a written consent form. This written consent form must be brought with the 16-year-old to the blood drive or donor center.

Until now, high school students under the age of 17 have been denied that right of passage. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm next week and put into effect immediately following the Governor’s signature.

To make an appointment to donate blood, call 1-

800-RED-CROSS (733-2767) or visit w ww.redcrossblood.

org.— G.G.

Gastroenteritis on the rise

— Genesee County has been experiencing an increase in gastroenteritis cases. The viruses that cause gastroenteritis, such as norovirus, can be easily spread by food, person-toperson contact, or contaminated surfaces or objects. The Genesee County Health Department would like to make sure that everyone stays healthy this holiday season by giving the following information.

Norovirus causes an illness which typically includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Symptoms may also include low-grade fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Symptoms last about 1 to 2 days and, in most cases, ill persons get better on their own. Sometimes people need to see a health care provider mainly due to dehydration, with the very young and elderly at highest risk. Those with severe diarrhea should drink lots of liquids.

Norovirus is very contagious and can be easily spread from person-to-person, especially in group settings. People can reduce their chance of getting infected by frequent hand washing using soap and warm running water for a minimum of 20 seconds (alcohol based hand sanitizers do NOT work against norovirus). Preventing contamination of food, drinks, and surfaces are critical to prevent the spread of norovirus. Anyone with norovirus must not prepare or serve food for others for 3 days after symptoms have stopped. Spread of norovirus can also be reduced through prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners and prompt washing of soiled articles of clothing. Since the virus is passed in vomit and stool, children should not go to daycare or school while they have diarrhea or vomiting. Persons who work in nursing homes, take care of patients, or handle food should stay out of work until at least 2 to 3 days after symptoms end.

Norovirus is known incorrectly as the “stomach flu”. Norovirus is NOT related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by a different virus. Further information about norovirus and environmental cleaning can be found at— G.G.

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