Norovirus – What It Is and How to Avoid It

by EMP Editor on April 3, 2009

Noroviruses, also called Norwalk-like viruses and caliciviruses, belong to a family of viruses that cause the stomach flu. The stomach flu may also be referred to as gastroenteritis, food infection, food poisoning, and acute nonbacterial gastroenteritis.

This highly contagious virus may be spread through contaminated water or foods (shellfish and salad ingredients are most often infected with the viruses) and from person to person (touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your hand in your mouth or sharing foods or utensils with an infected person).

Babson College, in Massachusetts, was temporarily shut down due to an outbreak of stomach flu believed to be caused by norovirus. Over a period of six days 131 students had visited the school’s health services clinic complaining of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea—all symptoms associated with norovirus.

The school reopened on Wednesday, April 1, after a thorough cleaning. The school used bleach-based cleansers. Students were also given cleaning supplies to sanitize their rooms and were also encouraged to frequently (and thoroughly) wash their hands.

In Pennsylvania about 200 students stayed home or left Coolbaugh Elementary last Friday complaining of vomiting and diarrhea. Of the 603 students, one out of three suffered from symptoms associated with norovirus. The district sanitized the building and buses over the weekend.

To prevent Norovirus infections follow these tips:

  • Wash your hands! This cannot be expressed enough. Before eating or preparing food, using the restroom, changing a diaper, etc.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and steam oysters before consuming
  • Do not prepare food if you have symptoms of norovirus and for three days after you recover
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after vomiting or having diarrhea using bleach-based cleaners
  • Immediately remove and wash soiled clothing or linens after vomiting or having diarrhea using hot water and soap
  • Flush vomit and/or stool down the toilet and make sure the surrounding area is kept sanitized
  • Although these tips seem like just basic common sense when you’re in a hurry or in an emergency situation sometimes you can forget the simplest of things.

    If you fall victim, symptoms will begin about 24 to 30 hours after exposure, however some people may not show any symptoms. To avoid dehydration it is extremely important to drink lots of fluids. There is no real treatment for this virus but if you keep yourself well hydrated and sanitize your surroundings it’s likely you’ll feel better within 48 to 72 hours.

    Sources: WebMD, Pocono Record, Scientific American

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