Norovirus is once again running rampant in our community. This highly contagious gastrointestinal illness can infect someone who ingests only 10 particles of virus – this is smaller than the head of a pin – and is significantly fewer virus particles than it takes to get sick from many other illnesses. For example, it usually takes about 100,000 colonies of a bacteria to quantify an infection.
Norovirus begins suddenly and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Sometimes, people may also feel tired and experience a low fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. It is contracted in areas of close contact, most commonly in long-term care facilities, schools and restaurants, especially those with buffets. The virus is commonly referred to as the “cruise-ship” virus. Norovirus is spread by direct person-to-person contact or the ingestion of fecally contaminated food or water.
Protection is relatively easy, but you must be diligent. Strict hand washing with warm water and soap remains the number one way to avoid norovirus. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not effective. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially after using the restroom and before eating. It is also important to note that norovirus is not killed with regular household cleaners. A solution of bleach and water is the best defense. More information on norovirus can be found on the NCDPH Web site.
Norovirus can wreak havoc on your family. We have posted several blogs about in the illness during previous outbreaks with more information on how to protect yourself and your family.