Tis the season to by jolly and joyous and to make sure you wash your hands. Montana epidemiologist Dana Fejes says norovirus outbreaks have ramped-up throughout the state in recent weeks.

"An outbreak, the way that we define it, is usually an increase of illnesses that is beyond what we normally expect. Usually throughout the year, we average about 30 - 35 outbreaks, since October till now, we've had about eight outbreaks reported to us."

The recent outbreaks tend to be in western Montana and are expected to continue through spring, however, they are also likely to peak in the coming weeks.

"The majority of outbreaks are reported during this time and usually peak in December or January, the counties where we have seen norovirus outbreaks so far include, Cascade, Fergus, Flathead, Gallatin, Meagher, Missoula, Silver Bow and Yellowstone."

Fejes says washing hands and cleaning surfaces like knobs and handrails with bleach-based cleaners are key to preventing the spread of Norovirus. Fabrics used by norovirus sufferers should be washed at the highest temperature on the longest cycle as norovirus can survive for long periods of time on surfaces.