Norovirus Illness – The Organic Facts

Norovirus – The stomach bug, the organic facts

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus. Norovirus infection causes GI inflammation. This leads to diarrhea, vomiting and eventually stomach pain. It is fairly difficult to detect in the Emergency Room in some cases.

Norovirus illness is often called by other names, such as food poisoning and stomach flu. It is true that noroviruses can cause food poisoning. Other germs and chemicals can also cause food poisoning. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.

Anyone can get Norovirus Illness

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Each year, norovirus causes about 21 million cases of acute gasteroenteritis in this country. There are many types of norovirus, so 1 person can get sick many times in his or her lifetime. Each person is different and it depends on how strong your immune system is as a whole. There are many organs of your body which make up your immune system which is another topic for another time.  Norovirus affects people of all ages. The virus is transmitted by fecally contaminated food (yeah, gross! we know!) or water, by person-to-person contact, and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces.

Norovirus illness can be serious

The virus  causes over 200,000 deaths each year; these deaths are usually in less developed countries where severe poverty exists. The majority of this illness is seen in the very young, elderly and immunosuppressed. Norovirus illness will make you feel extremely sick with diarrhea and vomiting many times daily. Some people may get severely dehydrated, especially younger children, the elderly and people with other illnesses. Each year, norovirus causes 70,000 people to become hospitalized.

Norovirus spreads very easily and quickly

It only takes a very small amount of norovirus particles (fewer than 100) to make you sick. People with norovirus shed billions of virus particles in their stools and being close to the vomit of an infected person can easily infect other people. A person is most contagious when they are sick with norovirus illness and during the first three days after he or she recovers. The virus can spread quickly in closed places  like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships when close quarters are prolific. Norovirus can stay on objects and surfaces and continue to infect people after days or even weeks.It can survive disinfectants, making it difficult to eliminate.

Norovirus can spread in many different ways

Norovirus can spread to other people by:

  • Eating food or drinking foods that are contaminated with the virus. Seems simple but the virus is difficult to detect as described earlier
  • Touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them then putting your fingers near your mouth.
  • Having close, personal contact with an effected person, for example, caring for or sharing food, drinks or eating utensils with an infected person.

There is no vaccine to prevent Norovirus infection and no way to treat it

Antibiotics will not help a person who has been infected by Norovirus illness because antibiotics do not work on viruses. If you get this virus, drink plenty of liquids low in sugar to replace the fluid loss and prevent dehydration. If you or someone you are caring for becomes dehydrated, call a doctor M.D. or go to your closest Emergency Room as quickly as possible.

Wash your hands correctly..what is the right way to wash your hands?

This seems like basic information but check your technique as each step below must be followed precisely:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and after 15 seconds, apply a good anti-bacterial soap.
  2. Make a lather for 30 seconds (watch the clock!) and scrub your hands well; be sure to scrub the back of your hands, under your nails… and in between fingers well. (important)
  3. Continue rubbing your hands for at least twenty (20) seconds. If you need a timer, Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to the end, twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under running water for at least 15 seconds.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or you can air dry them.

5 tips to prevent the spreading of Norovirus illness

  • Practice proper hand hygiene (explained above)
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook all seafood thoroughly
  • When you become sick, do not prepare food for other people
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces
  • Wash laundry thoroughy

In 2011 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a clinical practice guideline addressing strategies for the prevention and control of norovirus gastroenteritis outbreaks in health-care settings. Based on a systematic review of published scientific studies, the guideline presents 51 specific evidence-based recommendations, which were organized into 12 categories.

For more information go to: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention website

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