First the flu, now Norovirus. While we’re all cleaning, washing our hands, getting flu shots and trying to avoid getting sick, we now have another highly-contagious disease to worry about. According to news reports, a new strain of the Norovirus stomach bug has caused more than 140 outbreaks since September. Norovirus is easily transmitted and can be most dangerous for the elderly, young children and people with medical conditions. It can be spread not only by contact with an infected person, but by simply touching surfaces or objects contaminated by the bug, then touching your face or mouth.
Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine and no treatment for the Norovirus. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of contracting the virus.
1. Wash your hands: As always, the number one way to prevent the spread of disease is through proper handwashing techniques. Rub your hands together under warm water, using soap, for at least 20 seconds to properly kill the germs. That’s the same duration as singing “Happy Birthday to You” twice.
2. Take extra care in the kitchen: If you have the Norovirus illness, avoid preparing food for others until three days after your symptoms end. Everyone else should take extra care when washing fruit and vegetables. Cook food, including shellfish, poultry, fish and meat thoroughly to kill any remaining bacteria.
3. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces: The Centers for Disease Control recommends using a strong, bleach-based cleaner on your surfaces. That includes sinks, counter tops, light switches, remote controls and any other surface you might touch.
4. Wash laundry thoroughly: Immediately wash any clothing, bedding or towels that might be contaminated with vomit or stool. If possible, wear disposable rubber gloves when handling these items to avoid getting the germs on your hands. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you get those items in the washer.
5. Stay away from infected people: This can be the most difficult, especially if you are the caretaker. Limit contact as much as possible, and wash your hands often.
Centers for Disease Control