Wisconsin’s health department has launched a system to help people report foodborne illnesses to more quickly identify outbreaks.

In the form of an online survey, the system allows people who suspect their illness might be from eating or drinking something contaminated to report symptoms, recent food items eaten, and places visited before becoming sick, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health.

“By using this tool, Wisconsinites can help other people in their community from getting sick and prevent outbreaks,” said DHS State Health Officer Paula Tran. 

“Ingesting contaminated food and water may cause just a little stomach upset for some; for others, it can lead to hospitalization and be life-threatening. We’re asking people — to report it quickly when you’re feeling sick.”

The questionnaire can help officials identify a source of contamination and learn more about water and food-related illnesses, as officials believe they are underreported, given that those infected often feel better without seeking medical treatment.

Foodborne illnesses can be challenging to diagnose, so people with classic symptoms should seek medical attention and ask for specific tests if they believe they have become sick because of a specific illness.

Typical symptoms of foodborne illnesses include severe diarrhea that can be bloody. Abdominal cramping and vomiting may also be present and do not subside in two or three days.

The WDH explained the online tool is especially important to help fight against norovirus, as cases typically spike in the winter. According to the CDC, norovirus is very contagious and easily spreads through contact with someone who has the virus, sharing food, or eating food they handle. Symptoms often include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain.

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