Norovirus – the winter nightmare

Kids and adults alike are dropping like flies with this “stomach bug”. It’s nothing new, but we do have a less commonly known name for this “stomach bug” or “stomach flu” – Norovirus. Like the name suggests, it is a virus – not the flu or a bug. As recently as 2016, it was believed by doctors that only 100 particles were required to infect a person; we now know that the number may actually be less – around 18. Norovirus is the “best of both worlds” (sarcasm) with vomiting and diarrhea – which makes gastroenteritis the main presentation. Gastro = voms and enteritis = poop. Put those two together and we get gastroenteritis. People that fall ill with this virus are contagious for much longer than many other viruses, meaning the common “24 hours after last fever/vomit episode” placed in most schools is not working well. A person is contagious from the onset of symptoms to up to three days after symptoms are completely gone. This highly contagious virus is also resistant to most common household disinfectants, meaning unless you are using bleach or a hospital grade disinfectant – you may not be killing the virus.  Norovirus, if not properly dealt with, can live on surfaces for up to a week, meaning the chances of recontamination and spreading are high. Between the close corridors we share to keep warm in the winter to this virus’s long “shelf life” and ability to infect efficiently, each person’s chance of catching it is very high during the winter, but it can be caught anytime throughout the year. So, what can we do?

  • Stop using that lemon scented cleaner and break out the bleach, at least during the winter.
  • Wash hands regularly and use hand sanitizer when soap is not available. Try to be sure you are washing  your hands once for every two times you use a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is not the “magic soap” we think it is.
  • If someone in your home is sick, clean EVERYTHING. Just because the surface wasn’t vomited on, doesn’t mean there aren’t 18 particles with the ability to infect. This is the time to buy extra paper towels, too. Don’t try to use your microfiber cloths for this one.
  • STAY HOME if you are sick. Aim for 3 days to “de-contagious” yourself before going to work or school, especially if you will be around children. This isn’t always possible, but do your best.
  • Clean with a solution of up to 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water, per the CDC’s recommendation.

May the odds be ever in your favor.