Norovirus…the dreaded stomach flu that has taken down fast food giants like Chipotle, ruined cruise ship vacations and shut down schools (as we speak!), is back this year, and with a vengeance. An intestinal virus that is known as acute gastroenteritis, or simply the “stomach flu”, Norovirus infections are transmitted from person to person by contaminated food and water and contaminated surfaces. In a recent outbreak occurring in Yellowstone National Park, a touring group with the virus managed to infect over 200 individuals in the area.
Believe us- you don’t want it.
What are the symptoms of norovirus
Symptoms often include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping and nausea. A person may also experience muscle aches, a low grade fever, weakness and loss of taste. The infection is usually self-limiting and usually resolves within a few days, however those with severe dehydration can develop complications such as electrolyte imbalances.
Anyone can contract norovirus. Since it is spread by infected people, risk factors include large group settings where people are in close contact. People with norovirus infection are contagious as soon as they begin to feel the symptoms. They may remain contagious for about three days after recovery but some people can remain contagious for another 2 weeks, so steer clear of someone who tells you they are just recouping. Surfaces should also be cleaned with bleach as norovirus can exist on a variety of surfaces. Be sure to clean rugs and carpets, the less obvious spots such as computer keyboards and doorknobs. Laundry should also be done consistently and hand washing dishes avoided. It is often difficult to get water hot enough to kill germs and touching certain food may spread the virus.
Be careful where you eat! If you are at a restaurant or food established and see an employee touching your food without gloves, that is the first sign of unsafe food practices. Find somewhere else to eat. Over the last few years, many Chipotles across the country have seen outbreaks of norovirus among employees. It has left both customers and workers infected and a few of the Tex Mex fast food restaurants were forced to close their doors.
Unlike getting a flu vaccination, there is no vaccine currently available to prevent norovirus infection. Hand washing and good hygienic practices are key to preventing the spread of norovirus infection. Carry hand sanitizers and use them often.
Some especially germy places?
- The ATM machine,
- the subway,
- escalator and stair rails
- gas pumps.
- Try to avoid touching your face after touching one of these hot spots as the virus can also be ingested. It is also important to maintain proper hydration if you begin to feel any symptoms. To prevent dehydration, take frequent sips of water or a rehydration drink such as Pedialyte. Soda and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough important electrolytes.
Norovirus is in its peak this season. If you or a loved one think you have norovirus, please stay isolated for at least 48 hours. If symptoms continue after 3-4 days, seek medical help. We are here for you. For more information contact us at AFC Urgent Care West Hartford, no appointment needed, 7 days a week from 8am-8pm weekdays, 8am-5pm weekends, at (860) 986-6440