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Norovirus is the most common food-borne illness, and is estimated to be responsible for around half of all cases of food poisoning.

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a food-borne illness, estimated to sicken more than 20 million Americans each year.

Effects & consequences: How serious is Norovirus?
Though most of the time the illness passes without incident, around 800 people die each year from norovirus, usually from dehydration. Young children and the elderly are most at risk. (Manning, 2012)

Sources of Norovirus
Cooking foods destroys the virus, but foods that are eaten raw, such as foods prepared with contaminated hands or produce washed or exposed to contaminated water, will make people sick. Oysters are the most likely food to be contaminated with the virus in the environment, since they are nourished by filtering water on the ocean floor, usually in shallow shoreline areas where the water is most likely to be contaminated by human waste.

Is norovirus contagious?
Although it isn’t an airborne pathogen, norovirus is contagious. It spreads because people who are sick leave trace amounts of the virus from fecal matter or vomit (now there’s a lovely thought!) on the surfaces they touch, contaminating items. It can lurk on surfaces such as dorms, bathrooms, student lounges, elevator buttons, water fountain handles, and so on. The virus is detectable on hard surfaces for 2 weeks, though it’s not clear if it’s still contagious at that point. It can survive as long as 61 days in cold water and still be infectious. People are contagious from the moment they feel ill to at least 3 days -and sometimes as much as 2 weeks-after they recover, according to the CDC.

Preventing the spread of norovirus

Here are some ways to prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Don’t have anyone prepare food when they are sick
  • Use 15-25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water and use it to wipe down kitchens, bathrooms, door handles, and other “high touch” surfaces.
  • It’s unclear whether alcohol-based sanitizing gels work against norovirus They might help, but should not be a substitute for washing your hands with soap and water and bleaching common surfaces.
  • Remove any clothing or bedding that might be contaminated with vomit or fecal matter, and wash it in detergent for the longest cycle available, then machine dry.
  • Most of all, don’t prepare food while you’re sick.

Signs & symptoms of Norovirus

Norovirus is typically marked by sudden vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. These symptoms may make you miserable for day or two, but usually pas within 24-48 hours.

Treating norovirus: What to do if you or your child is sick
If someone does get sick, it’s important for them to stay hydrated, so drink plenty of water. As previously stated, the symptoms will typically pass within 24 to 48 hours, and usually require no medical attention. Monitor children for signs of dehydration, and if they worsen, call the doctor immediately.

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