Over 50 cases of gastroenteritis, also called stomach flu, have grown from one case reported around Thanksgiving at Valley View Estates skilled nursing facility in Hamilton.

In a news release Friday from the Ravalli County Public Health Department, officials report that it is not related to influenza.

The stomach flu has affected both residents and staff. Initial investigation by Public Health determined that the infection most likely came from outside the facility, but further testing is underway.

The symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain and cramping and they last between one to three days. Public Health officials said that Valley View's proper sanitation practices did not contribute to the spread.

Transmission of the virus may come from close contact with infected people, sharing personal objects, or eating improperly prepared food. Treatment does not usually involve medication, but patients are urged to drink plenty of water. For some children and the elderly, IV fluids are sometimes needed.

Dr. Carol Calderwood, Ravalli Public Health Officer, said that if you are experiencing "significant or persistent symptoms, call your physician" to find out what testing methods will help identify the sources and patterns of the spread of this outbreak.

She advised that a person "must be three days without symptoms to be considered not at risk to transmit."

For more information, call the Health Department at (406) 375-6670.