Norovirus, or the 'stomach bug', is making rounds—here are CDC-approved ways to prevent it
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We’ve all been there—you’re enjoying your day, feeling fine when suddenly your stomach turns and you look for the nearest bathroom where you’ll be spending the next few hours. What happened? Was it something you ate?
Norovirus is the most likely culprit, and it can happen to anyone. Luckily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shared tips on the best ways to avoid it, particularly while you're on spring break so as to not ruin what's supposed to be a good time.
We’re here to walk you through what norovirus is and expert steps you can take to avoid it during your spring break travels to give you peace of mind—and stomach.
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What is norovirus?
Norovirus, more commonly known as "the stomach bug," is a common virus that is the leading cause of foodborne illness. There are 19 to 21 million cases of people getting sick with it per year in the United States, with 109,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths annually. It differs from the flu (influenza) because the influenza virus causes a respiratory illness whereas norovirus presents an infection mainly in the stomach and intestines.
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How do you catch norovirus?
Norovirus is spread by being in close contact with someone infected with the virus. Sharing utensils, sharing food, caring for an infected individual or eating food handled by one are all possible ways the virus can spread. Additionally, norovirus can spread by touching fecal or vomit particles infected with the virus and then touching one's nose or mouth.
Symptoms of norovirus
The most common symptoms of norovirus are vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain. Rarer symptoms include fever, headaches and body aches. Symptoms of norovirus typically appear 12-24 hours after a person has been exposed to it. Studies indicate that the virus can be spread for up to two weeks after a person seemingly recovers from it.
Can norovirus be treated?
There are currently no vaccines or specific treatments for norovirus, only ways to treat the symptoms. There are, however, ways to mitigate the spread, as outlined by the CDC. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to treat your symptoms.
CDC tips to protect yourself and your family
Wash your hands
The CDC notes that washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is vital in curbing the spread of norovirus. Thoroughly washing your hands requires lathering them with soap for 20 seconds (or about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday) and rinsing with warm water. The CDC notes that hand sanitizer is not effective at killing norovirus, thus it can't be used as a substitute for hand washing, though it can be used in conjunction to curb the spread of other germs.
The CDC states that washing your hands is particularly important after the following:
Touching common surfaces
Caring for people who are sick
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The CDC recommends using disposable gloves whenever cleaning up after someone with norovirus. That way, you decrease the risk of accidentally infecting yourself. The best disposable gloves we tested are the Venom Steel Nitrile Gloves as they're durable, textured and latex-free.
Clean dishes thoroughly
Don’t leave remnants on your dishes from a sick individual and maintain caution when handling contaminated dishes. To ensure that your dishes are clean to eat off of after they've been used by someone infected with norovirus, use quality dish detergent like our favorite dish soap, Dawn Ultra. We love it because it's great at cleaning tough stains and has a pleasant, fruity fragrance.
If you're cleaning surfaces near where someone with norovirus has been around or that have been contaminated with fecal matter or vomit, it’s important to do so carefully with bleach or another approved cleaner. You can use a premixed bleach or mix your own using 3/4 cup of bleach with one gallon of water. If the mess carries onto the floor, use our favorite traditional mop, the O-Cedar EasyWring Spin Mop & Bucket System, which is washable and easily maneuverable.
Carefully wash fruits and vegetables
Another way to make sure norovirus doesn't spread is to properly prepare the food you eat. This includes thoroughly rinsing your produce. A colander will help you to do this effectively. Our favorite is the OXO Good Grips 5-Quart Stainless-Steel Colander. It stays in place, is easy to hold and, most importantly, it has good drainage.
Clean contaminated laundry
The laundry of someone infected with norovirus should also be cleaned, particularly if said laundry has vomit or fecal matter on it. Our favorite detergent to do the job is Persil ProClean which performs the best stain removal of all the detergents we’ve tested.
Dispose of trash immediately
You should also frequently change the trash if its contents may have the virus on them, as this lowers the risk of spread. The best trash bags are Glad ForceFlexPlus Tall Kitchen Drawstring Bags for their durability, flexibility and ability to mask the smell of trash.
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While nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are never pleasant, there are ways to make recovery a bit less excruciating if you or a loved one get norovirus. It is important to stay hydrated as a major part of getting norovirus is that you rapidly lose liquids. Dehydration can be dangerous and will only make you feel worse. Symptoms of dehydration include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain — the exact same symptoms of norovirus. We recommend using our favorite water bottle, the Brita BB11 Premium Filtering Water Bottle, which filters odors, can be opened with one hand and keeps water cool for up to 24 hours.
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Norovirus stomach bug 2023: Symptoms, how to prevent on spring break