I’m sure many of us have been sick with what many people refer to as the “Stomach Flu”. While the stomach flu isn’t actually a real illness, Norovirus is very real. Norovirus, sometimes referred to simply as Noro in public health, is not related to the flu virus in anyway. But it usually causes the same symptoms that people experience when they have the “Stomach Flu”.
The most common symptoms associated with Norovirus are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Some other symptoms that are occasionally associated with Noro include fever, headache, and body aches. These symptoms usually develop 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to Norovirus. Symptoms usually last about 1 to 3 days, but the virus can stay in your poop for up to two weeks after you start to feel better. If a person is infected with Norovirus, they could possibly become dehydrated due to vomiting and having diarrhea multiple times a day. A person who is dehydrated will have a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and/or throat, and a dizzy feeling when standing up.
I’m sure, at this point, you are asking yourself “What can I do to prevent getting Noro?” In order to get Norovirus, you must accidentally ingest particles of feces or vomit from an infected person. This can happen by eating foods or drinking liquids contaminated with Norovirus, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus and then putting your fingers in your mouth, or by having direct contact with someone who is infected with Norovirus.
There are several things you, and everyone else, can do to prevent this from happening. Practicing proper hand hygiene is a great way to prevent the spread of Noro. You should always wash your hands after using the restroom or changing diapers; before eating, preparing or handling food; and before giving yourself or someone else medicine. Soap and water are best at removing Norovirus from your hands. The next thing you can do is to handle and prepare food safely. This can be done through washing fruits and veggies before preparing and eating them and cooking food thoroughly. If you are sick, you should not prepare foods for others or provide care and should not do so until two days after symptoms have stopped. This applies to healthcare providers and anyone who works in a restaurant, school, daycare, or long-term care facility. The last thing you can do to help prevent the spread of Norovirus is clean and disinfect surfaces. If someone vomits or has diarrhea, you should clean the mess with a paper towel and then disinfect the area using a bleach-based cleaner. If laundry has been soiled with diarrhea or vomit, you should wash it carefully. Wash the laundry with detergent, hot water, and for the longest cycle on your washing machine. When drying, they should be dried at the highest heat setting.
If you have more questions about Norovirus you can find more information at www.cdc.gov/norovirus.
Mikie Strite, MPH, is the Meigs County Health Department Epidemiologist.