The flu season may be suffering from a slow start this year, but norovirus diagnostics are on the rise in California and Minnesota, with the added threat from the discovery of a new strain. This makes doctors urge people not only from these two states but from every corner of the US, to exercise caution and wash their hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds as often as they can.
Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis, with symptoms like intense vomiting episodes, diarrhea, and nausea. In special cases, it can lead to severe abdominal pain and the loss of taste. It affects around 267 million people around the world each year, causing over 200.000 deaths annually. It is transmitted through normal human contact, fecally contaminated water or food, or contaminated surfaces. Norovirus outbreaks are commonly found in schools, restaurants, hospitals, and other similarly crowded environments.
The symptoms caused by this virus become active after a period between 12 and 48 hours has passed since exposure and last up to three days. Hand sanitizers are completely ineffective in dealing with norovirus exposure. But the infection can be circumvented if the subject washes his hands after contact with a contaminated source, or by cleaning kitchen utensils on a regular basis.
The fast contagion speed could be clearly observed in the recent outbreak at a Chipotle restaurant that occurred earlier in December. Over 153 Boston citizens were infected in a manner of days before the restaurant was closed and its manager fired.
A similar case happened in Seattle at an office building in the Russel Development Center. All the food-related services in the building were shut down, due to the fact that they were the cause of the outbreak that infected almost 200 people.
Even if the concept of fecal-oral transmission may seem preposterous to the general public, direct fecal contact is not required. Forgetting to clean your hands after you use the bathroom, contaminating objects, or just food that hasn’t been properly washed, all of these can lead to a possible norovirus outbreak.
Although, after the 3 day period, symptoms may begin to fade, the subject will remain as a potential carrier for the next couple of days. The ones who are the most vulnerable towards this virus are the elderly and children. In some cases of massive dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhea episodes, the infected people have to be urgently hospitalized.
Even if norovirus diagnostics are on the rise in California and Minnesota, if the general public understands the need of protecting themselves from the vomit-inducing disease, the outbreaks can be almost completely circumvented. Washing vegetables and meats before cooking, as well as keeping a sanitized environment in the kitchen will help in protecting yourself from norovirus, as well as other diseases. But keep in mind that once you are infected, you will become extremely contagious, so until the symptoms die off, try to keep yourself as isolated as possible to avoid spreading the virus even further.