It's not only cold and flu season; it's also norovirus season. Norovirus typically peaks between December and April, and right now there are wide-spread outbreaks of norovirus cases throughout the United States, according to media reports.1
Sometimes called the "stomach flu," norovirus is the most common cause of acute viral gastroenteritis around the world, and the most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States.2 Norovirus is highly contagious and can be found in a person's stool even before they start feeling sick and for two weeks after they feel better.3 Symptoms usually appear 12 to 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and last approximately one to three days. The most common symptoms of norovirus are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.
Symptoms usually appear 12 to 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and last approximately one to three days. The most common symptoms of norovirus are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.
How Norovirus Spreads
Norovirus spreads quickly and rapidly, people can become infected with it by:
• Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, most likely prepared by an individual who is infected with the virus
• Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth
• Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus, for example, when sharing foods, utensils with them4
Steps to Reduce the Spread of Norovirus
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, follow these steps to reduce the spread of the virus.
1. Practice good hand hygiene. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water at key moments, especially after using the restroom since the virus can spread through stool. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used in addition to handwashing.
2. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Immediately disinfect and clean contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant and cleaner formulated to kill norovirus. For example, PURELL® Surface Sprays are registered with the EPA and effective at killing norovirus on surfaces in 30 seconds.
3. Wash laundry thoroughly
4. Wash fruits and vegetables when preparing food; follow proper food preparation guidelines
5. Do not prepare meals when you are sick2
"Whether you think you might have a cold, flu or norovirus, it's always important to consult a doctor and take precautionary measures to help you and everyone stay healthy," recommends Jim Arbogast, PhD, vice president of hygiene sciences and public health advancements at GOJO.
1 Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2017, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-stomach-bug-norovirus-rips-through-u-s-schools-1485191421?mg=id-wsj
2 Lopman et al. 2016. The Vast and Varied Global Burden of Norovirus: Prospects for Prevention and Control. PLoS Medicine 13(4): e1001999. Available at http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001999
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Norovirus. Retrieved January 26, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/transmission.html
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Norovirus. Retrieved January 24, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/features/norovirus/
Source: GOJO Industries