Protecting yourself from norovirus

Follow these steps to guard you and your family from norovirus.

What is norovirus? Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines, or both to become inflamed. This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and vomiting. In elderly adults and very young children this illness can be very serious. Dehydration among young children, the elderly, and the sick can be common, and it is the most serious health effect that can result from the norovirus infection.

There is no specific medicine to treat people with norovirus illness. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is a viral (not a bacterial) infection. If you have norovirus illness, you should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration. Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. But, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals. Oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter are most helpful for mild dehydration.

Norovirus is a leading cause of illness from contaminated food in the United States. Foods commonly involved in outbreaks include:

  • Leafy greens (such as lettuce, spinach and others)
  • Fresh fruits
  • Shellfish (such as oysters)

Any food served raw or handled after being cooked can get contaminated.

Preventing norovirus: You can prevent norovirus. Michigan State University Extension suggests following these steps to protect yourself and others from norovirus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating
  • Cook seafood thoroughly – noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish
  • Clean and sanitize surfaces
  • If you are sick do not prepare food or care for others

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