Have you heard of a sickness called Norovirus? Chances are you have had Norovirus, also called the "stomach flu," many times in your life. Despite its nickname, Norovirus is not related to the flu.
Norovirus is highly contagious and may cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually start within 24 to 48 hours and most people begin to feel better within one or two days and have no long-term health effects.
People with the Norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least 3 days after they recover. There is no vaccine to prevent a Norovirus infection and no drug to treat people who get sick from the virus. Antibiotics will not help because they fight against bacteria, not viruses.
1 in every 15 Americans will get Norovirus illness each year. Norovirus is also estimated to cause over 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year in the United States.
The Center for Disease Control offers the following tips on protecting yourself from Norovirus:
Wash your hands carefully with soap and water—Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. They should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
Be aware that Noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish.
You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 to 3 days after you recover.
After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 5–25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water or other disinfectant registered as effective against Norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool (feces).
You should handle soiled items carefully without agitating them, wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled items and wash your hands after, and wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry them.
If you follow these tips and use caution when caring for sick loved ones, you may dramatically reduce your chances of contracting Norovirus.