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We’ve all been there – you enjoy your day, you feel good when your stomach suddenly turns and you search for the nearest bathroom where you will spend the next few hours. What happened? Was it something you ate?
Norovirus is the most likely culprit and it can happen to anyone. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shared tips on the best ways to avoid it, especially during spring break, so as not to ruin what should be a good time.
We’re here to show you what norovirus is and expert steps you can take to avoid it on your spring break travels to give you peace of mind and stomach.
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What is Norovirus?
Norovirus, 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 from it each year in the United States, with 109,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths each year. It differs from the flu (influenza) because the influenza virus causes a respiratory disease, while the norovirus mainly causes an infection in the stomach and intestines.
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How do you catch the norovirus?
Norovirus is spread by being in close contact with someone infected with the virus. Sharing utensils, sharing food, caring for an infected person, or eating food that has been held by someone are all possible ways the virus can spread. In addition, norovirus can spread by touching fecal or vomit particles infected with the virus and then touching the nose or mouth.
The most common symptoms of norovirus are vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain. Rarer symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches. Symptoms of norovirus usually appear 12-24 hours after a person is exposed to it. Studies show that the virus can be spread for up to two weeks after a person appears to have recovered from it.
Can norovirus be treated?
There are currently no vaccines or specific treatments for norovirus, only ways to manage the symptoms. However, there are ways to curb 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 regularly and thoroughly is essential to curbing the spread of norovirus. To thoroughly wash your hands, lather them with soap for 20 seconds (or about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday) and rinse with warm water. The CDC notes that hand sanitizer is not effective at killing norovirus, so it cannot be used as a substitute for hand washing, although it can be used in combination to prevent the spread of other germs.
The GGD states that washing your hands is especially important after the following:
- To change diapers
- Touching common surfaces
- Shake hands
- Caring for people who are sick
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The CDC recommends using disposable gloves when cleaning up someone with norovirus. This way you reduce the risk of accidentally infecting yourself. The best disposable gloves we’ve tested are the Venom Steel Nitrile Gloves, as they’re durable, textured, and latex-free.
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Clean the dishes thoroughly
Do not leave a sick person’s remains on your dishes and be careful when handling contaminated dishes. To make sure your dishes are clean to eat after they’ve been used by someone infected with norovirus, use a high-quality dish soap, like our favorite dish soap, Dawn Ultra. We love it because it’s great at removing stubborn stains and has a pleasant, fruity scent.
If you’re cleaning surfaces near places where someone with norovirus has been near or contaminated with feces or vomit, it’s important to do so gently with bleach or another approved cleaner. You can use a premixed bleach or mix your own bleach with 3/4 cup of bleach with a gallon of water. When the mess hits the floor, use our favorite traditional mop, the O-Cedar EasyWring Spin Mop & Bucket System, which is washable and easy to maneuver.
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Wash fruits and vegetables carefully
Another way to keep norovirus from spreading is to properly prepare the foods you eat. This includes thoroughly rinsing your produce. A colander will help you 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.
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Clean contaminated laundry
The laundry of someone infected with norovirus should also be cleaned, especially if there is vomit or fecal matter on that laundry. Our favorite detergent to get the job done is Persil ProClean, which does the best stain removal of all the detergents we tested.
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Dispose of waste immediately
You should also regularly replace the recycle bin if its contents contain the virus, as this will reduce the risk of spreading. The best garbage bags are Glad ForceFlexPlus High Drawstring Kitchen Bags for their durability, flexibility and ability to mask the smell of garbage.
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While nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are never pleasant, there are ways to make recovery a little less excruciating if you or a loved one contract norovirus. It’s important to stay hydrated, as an important part of getting norovirus is losing fluids quickly. Dehydration can be dangerous and will only make you feel worse. Symptoms of dehydration include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain — the exact same symptoms of norovirus. We recommend using our favorite water bottle, the Brita BB11 Premium Filtering Water Bottle, which filters odors, opens with one hand and keeps water cool for up to 24 hours.
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