If you have ever had what you considered to be travelers diarrhea, food poisoning or the stomach flu, chances are that you probably caught a norovirus. The norovirus loves your intestines and can cause a condition called gastroenteritis. The bad news about this virus is that you can pick up the infection from almost anywhere.
How Do You Catch Norovirus
The primary mode of transmission for the norovirus is through contaminated food. People who already have the norovirus could cough, sneeze or even handle your food without washing their hands and transmit the virus in that fashion. You can also pick up the norovirus by touching surfaces that are contaminated with the germs.
This virus can live indefinitely on most hard or a porous surface which is why hand washing is so important. Telephones, stair railings, door knobs and even shopping cart handles could be riddled with the norovirus. All you would have to do is touch the infected surface unknowingly and then rub your eyes, nose or mouth to transmit it to yourself.
Symptoms of the Norovirus
As mentioned above, getting the norovirus is much like suffering through stomach flu. You can get diarrhea and experience vomiting. Nausea can plague you as can stomach pains or cramps and fever. The typical time period between exposure and exhibition of symptoms is 24-48 hours unless your immune system is compromised by another illness. Then, the symptoms could appear in as little as 12 hours.
You can expect to experience these symptoms for about two days give or take a day. Of course, there is nothing the least bit fun about the norovirus and it has been known to ruin vacations and social events. Just imagine getting the virus while on a cruise ship or on vacation half a world away!
Preventive Measures to Take Against the Norovirus
Hand washing is always the best way to deter obnoxious germs. Use warm water and plenty of soap. In addition, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially in public places where you might catch the virus from infected surfaces. In fact, you can also carry hand sanitizer when you are not near the bathrooms and you want to feel a little cleaner.
At home or in the office, use a disinfectant spray to treat hard surfaces such as counter tops, door handles, telephones, computer keyboard and even water faucets. Do not eat raw or undercooked food and always wash your vegetables and fruits thoroughly.
If you are traveling, only drink water that comes from a bottle and make sure that the seal has not been broken. When buying canned or bottled drinks, always wash the lid or drinking surface with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer to kill the germs.
There are no vaccines to combat the norovirus. That means, you can only treat the symptoms to make yourself feel a bit more comfortable while the virus runs its course. Its not ideal, but since there are not cures for viruses, you have to just grin and bear it or take as many preventative measures as possible and avoid the norovirus all together!
Image: Jean Yves. Sgro, PhD, Institute for Molecular Virology, University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Norwalk virus, an example of a norovirus, is approximately 40 nanometers in diameter.