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What in the world is…norovirus?


Of all the unpleasant health bugs we may experience throughout our lives, one of those that tops our lists as “most awful” might be the stomach flu. You may have noticed that norovirus has been making the news this year, but what is it, exactly? Basically, it’s a virus that causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines (or both). This inflammation is also called acute gastroenteritis (try saying that three times, fast!). This mean little bug has been spreading across the country like wildfire, even closing entire schools for days at a time.

Also referred to as the “winter vomiting bug” (charming, right?), symptoms of norovirus can appear from 12 to 48 hours after being exposed, and it can stay with you for last anywhere from one to three days. It can happen at any age, and typical symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it can also be accompanied by fever, headaches and body aches.

So how do you get norovirus? Unfortunately, this virus is highly contagious and can be spread in settings such as restaurants, schools and cruise ships—most commonly found in foods prepared by infected individuals that did not properly cover their hands before serving. Touching surfaces that haven’t been properly disinfected can spread the virus, too, along with sharing food or beverages with someone that has had the virus recently.

And because there are so many different strains of this virus, you can catch it multiple times throughout your life—just think of it like those pesky seasonal critters that haunt your attic/basement every winter. Or your in-laws. Oh brother!)—and there is no cure for norovirus. Drinking plenty of liquids and getting rest can help alleviate the symptoms.

While it’s tough to predict exposure to norovirus, there are a few things you can do to try to prevent getting sick. Perhaps the simplest way is to wash your hands thoroughly and often; hand sanitizers do not effectively kill this nasty germ, so good ‘ole soap and water will help keep your tummy happy. Also be sure to wash your fruits and veggies before consuming them, and if you’ve been ill recently, do not prepare foods for others…because sometimes sharing is not caring. Thoroughly cleaning surfaces at home and at work can make a huge difference in how this virus is spread. Click here for the Center of Disease Control’s easy guide to preventing norovirus.

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