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How to prevent norovirus infection

Posted on Jan. 24, 2013 ( comments)

Have you heard rumblings in the news (and hopefully not your stomach!) about a new strain of norovirus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a new strain of norovirus, often mistakenly referred to as "stomach flu," has caused more than 140 outbreaks since September. But, no need to panic yet. Most norovirus infections are mild and pass in a few days.

Noroviruses spread through contaminated water and foods, and  from person to person, and cause gastroenteritis, food infection, food poisoning, and acute nonbacterial gastroenteritis.

How can you prevent infection?

  • Wash your hands before eating or preparing food. This is especially important if you have just used the restroom or changed any diapers.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
  • Boil drinking water for 1 to 3 minutes if you have reason to suspect it has been contaminated. Cool water in the refrigerator before drinking. Water filters do not protect against noroviruses.
  • Immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces after a vomiting or diarrhea episode
  • Immediately wash soiled clothing and linens with hot water and soap after a vomiting or diarrhea episode.
  • Flush vomit and/or stool in the toilet. And make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
  • Do not prepare food if you have symptoms of food poisoning and for 3 days after you recover.
Common symptoms:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration
  • Some people experience a headache, fever and body aches
A short, mild (though admittedly unpleasant) illness typically develops 24 to 48 hours after consuming contaminated food or water and will last for about 24 to 60 hours. Only in very rare cases will a person get very sick and need to go to the hospital.

Find more health information and tips for staying healthy in our online health library.

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