ST. PAUL (AP) - Outbreaks of norovirus are hitting Minnesota hard.

The Minnesota Department of Health said Monday around 40 outbreaks of the foodborne illness have been reported since the start of November. The settings include schools, restaurants, nursing homes and private gatherings.

While norovirus illness is commonly called stomach flu, it's not the same as influenza, which is mostly a respiratory illness.

Dr. Kirk Smith, who heads the department's foodborne diseases unit, says people need to remember to wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before consuming food, and before preparing food for themselves or others.

Smith says people who become ill can spread the virus even after they recover, so they should refrain from preparing food - commercially or for their own families - for 72 hours after they get well.