Most people have never heard of the norovirus, sometimes referred to as the “winter vomiting bug” in parts of the United States and elsewhere around the world. It is one of the leading causes of gastroenteritis, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and of illnesses caused by food contamination. The norovirus can easily and rapidly spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, consumption of contaminated food or water, or interaction with someone already infected. Due to the ease with which the norovirus can be transmitted, and considering outbreaks are most prevalent in the United States from November through April, it is important to recognize ways to help prevent the spread of the virus and avoid a personal infection.
Practice Good Hygiene
When fighting against potential viral outbreaks, it is crucial to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and disinfecting soap before handling, preparing, or consuming food and immediately after using the toilet or changing diapers. It is also essential to thoroughly wash your clothes often, and soiled clothes immediately, using the strongest detergent, warmest water temperature, and longest wash cycle permitted by each garment.
Disinfect Surfaces Prone to Contamination
Many surfaces, such as baby changing stations, are prone to contamination while others, such as kitchen counters, can potentially contaminate food or objects and cause illness later. In any case, it is critical to frequently clean high-risk surfaces with a disinfectant capable of combating the norovirus or with an equally effective chlorine bleach cleaner.
Thoroughly Wash and Cook All Food
Unfortunately, the norovirus is quite resistant, meaning it is critical to wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing your food vigorously. It is also important to cook food thoroughly, especially meat and seafood, as the norovirus can survive temperatures of more than 140 degrees. If at any point you suspect contamination, it is better to dispose of the food than to take any undue risk.
Symptoms of the norovirus can be very unpleasant, and it is as contagious as it is undesirable, making preventative measures imperative in avoiding infection and limiting outbreaks.