Viruses this fall and winter have hit in full force. This season, the culprit that is closing schools, nursing homes, and keeping people stuck at home is the norovirus. This virus, also known as the winter vomit bug (Wikipedia), is a very contagious virus that anyone can get. “In the United States it is most commonly spread from November through April” (cdc.gov). Roughly 19 to 21 million people contract norovirus every year. This puts between 56,000 – 71,000 people in the hospital, and kills between 570-800 people (cdc.gov).
A person can become infected by norovirus from another person who has it, by coming in contact with a surface contaminated with the virus, or by food or water that has the virus in it. “This virus is the most common cause of sickness caused by contaminated food in the United States” (cdc.gov). Symptoms include nausea, stomach pains, vomiting, and diarrhea. These occur once the intestines and/or stomach suffer from inflammation (also known as Gastroenteritis).
To test for this virus, your physician can run a stool sample. It can be in the stool prior to experiencing symptoms. It can also be found in your stool up to two weeks or longer post symptoms. This means that while you are experiencing symptoms and for a few days after symptoms are gone, you can still be contagious. Norovirus can linger on surfaces; and since it’s a very contagious virus, it’s best to continue cleaning surfaces, faucets, handles, and anything else you may share with others during this time.
Norovirus can strike multiple times because there are many different types that can be spread. There is no vaccine or medication that can build your immune system to avoid getting norovirus. While there is no medical way to prevent the norovirus, there are ways you can try and avoid getting it.
- Washing your hands is the number one way to avoid any illness. This is important any time you go to the bathroom, before you make any food, after getting home from running errands, etc. If you are not able to wash your hands while you’re out of the house, make sure to keep hand sanitizer on you. This will help kill germs until you can wash them off.
- If you are sick with norovirus, do not cook or prep any food. This can easily be spread through contaminated food, so try to avoid it while sick.
- When you do cook, make sure you wash fruits and vegetables and full cook any raw food.
- Wipe down any infected areas with bleach wipes. This includes doorknobs, counters, handles, faucets, remotes, light switches, etc. You can also spray Lysol bleach throughout the rooms to kill germs in the air.
- Wash any clothes, bedding, towels, etc. in hot water with soap on a full cycle, and then dry. This will kill the germs and keep them from spreading.
If you feel that you have any of these symptoms, contact your physician. There is no medication to cure it because it is viral, however, they can prescribe anti-nausea medication for relief. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and to ease back into eating. Start small with plain crackers, bland soup, and nothing too acidic. Be sure to wash your hands and try to stay germ-free this season!