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What is the Norovirus?

 You’re ready to leave on vacation but the news media reports an outbreak of Norovirus – what now?

First, you probably would like to know what a Norovirus is.

Noroviruses are viruses transmitted by fecally-contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. These viruses are the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, and affect everybody. (Wikipedia)

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that Noroviruses affect the stomach and intestines and cause gastroenteritis (an inflammation of these organs).
Frequently a Norovirus infection is mislabeled as the flu, but the two are not related and there is no vaccine to inoculate against the Norovirus. You may hear people saying they have “food poisoning” or “stomach flu” but these descriptions are usually the symptoms of a Norovirus.   Consider that chemicals and germs can also cause food poisoning, and the flu (influenza) is a respiratory illness where the Norovirus is not.

The most common symptoms
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting
• Nausea
• Stomach pain

Other symptoms include:
• Fever
• Headache
• Body aches

You can get dehydrated if you are not able to drink enough liquids while you’re ill. You may urinate less, have a dry mouth and throat, and feel dizzy.

What to do about it?
To prevent a Norovirus infection it’s very important to practice good hygiene, especially when you are in close surroundings with large groups of people (nursing homes, day care facilities, schools, etc.) or if you are on a vacation (road trip, cruise, flight, etc.).

Wash your hands thoroughly and vigorously with soap and water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, and always do so before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (remember that these alcohol-based products are not a substitute for washing with soap and water).

In the kitchen carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and avoid eating raw meat or raw sea food.

Do not prepare food while infected. Do not prepare food for others while you have the symptoms and wait for 3 days after recovering from the illness before preparing food for others.

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. After vomiting or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label.
Wash laundry thoroughly.  Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool, using rubber or latex gloves if they are available.
There is no real treatment for this virus. Healthy people find the illness usually goes away on its own within a couple of days, and most people don’t suffer any long-term problems from the virus.
For children and seniors it is important to make sure they don’t get dehydrated. Anyone who is sick with a Norovirus must make sure to drink plenty of liquids, especially water and juices. Give children an oral rehydration solution to replace fluids and electrolytes. Avoid sugary drinks as well as alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate you further. The CDC is maintaining surveillance for these Norovirus outbreaks.

You should not fear or avoid going on a cruise or eating out; just be aware of your surroundings and maintain a vigorous regimen of personal hygiene.