How to Avoid the Nasty Norovirus Stomach Bug

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Nobody likes a stomach bug. There’s the nausea, vomiting, diarrhea—and if you’re lucky, you get all of the above. And if this particular stomach bug happens to be norovirus, you have the extra treat of knowing it’s super transmissible.

The CDC told that norovirus cases are on the rise in all 14 of the states that report to its norovirus surveillance program. Noro isn’t a new virus, but it tends to surge in the winter, and it seems to be following that program this year. So here is what you need to know.

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is a virus that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Sometimes it can cause headaches and body aches as well. A bad cause of noro can cause dehydration, especially in children and older adults.

Norovirus can spread through contaminated food or water, or from touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus. This virus is particularly infectious and long-lasting, so you’ll want to wash your hands frequently if you’re sick or if you know somebody who is, and you’ll want to sanitize anything the sick person may have touched or, you know, spewed onto. Definitely don’t share food or utensils with the sick person, and wash your hands after changing a sick baby’s diaper.

What is stomach flu?

I hate the name “stomach flu” because it’s not a flu at all. “The flu” is a nickname for influenza, a totally different virus. But we often use the term “stomach flu” to refer to any gastrointestinal illness. A stomach flu can result from a virus you picked up from a surface, or it can be a case of food poisoning from any of a variety of viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms.

How is norovirus different from other viruses?

A few fun facts about norovirus, according to the CDC:

  • Hand sanitizer doesn’t work well against norovirus. Wash your hands if at all possible.
  • Norovirus can be transmitted by vegetables or even oysters that were grown in contaminated water. There is currently a norovirus outbreak linked to oysters from Texas.
  • Quick steaming (of shellfish, for example) doesn’t always kill norovirus. You need to cook oysters to 145°F to make sure they can’t spread the virus.
  • People who are sick shouldn’t prepare food or care for others, and this is especially important with norovirus. Virus particles can get on food and make others sick.

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