Norovirus

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Protect Your Family from Norovirus

Norovirus is a gastrointestinal illness that generally causes vomiting and diarrhea. You may hear people refer to it as the “stomach flu,” but norovirus is not related to the influenza virus, which is primarily a respiratory illness.

Every year – especially from November to March – we will see an increase in reports of norovirus, and many reports are in reference to outbreaks of illness. So what are the symptoms? And what can you do to stay healthy?

The symptoms of norovirus illness usually began 12 to 48 hours after being infected. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Most people recover within 1–3 days, but may be able to spread Norovirus to others for weeks after recovery. Some people who are infected with norovirus may not have symptoms, but they can still pass the infection to others.

Severe disease such as high fever and bloody diarrhea are uncommon, but dehydration can be seen among the very young, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

People can become infected with the virus by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with norovirus, touching surfaces or objects that have been contaminated with norovirus then putting their hand in their mouth, or having direct contact with someone who is ill with norovirus.

Outbreaks of norovirus infections are very common because it is extremely contagious and easily spread from person-to-person. Nearly 30% of those infected show no symptoms, which can play a role in the spread of norovirus during outbreak situations. Both stool and vomit are infectious. Outbreaks can occur in schools, daycares, and nursing homes as well as restaurants, catered events, and cruise ships. Undercooked oysters harvested from contaminated water can also be a vehicle for norovirus infection.

Norovirus is a particularly hardy virus and is resistant to most household cleaners. To kill the virus in the environment, you must use either a cleaner that is EPA certified to kill norovirus (http://www.epa.gov/oppad001/list_g_norovirus.pdf) or a bleach solution (concentration varies depending on the surface to be cleaned). (http://www.osha.gov/Publications/norovirus-factsheet.pdf) Examples of items to disinfect include doorknobs, faucets, sinks, toilets, phones, counters, hand rails, light switches, keyboards and linens.

Tips and tools are available to help protect your family from norovirus.

Proper and frequent hand washing paired with prompt and adequate disinfection of contaminated surfaces are essential to stopping the spread of the virus. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus. In addition, proper protective equipment, including masks and gloves, should also be utilized when cleaning up vomit or feces from an ill individual. (http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/downloads/keyfacts.pdf)