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Beware Norovirus, Coffee Cup Lids and Dirty Money

Norovirus is spreading fast around the country! Why should you beware norovirus? Can you catch it from coffee cup lids and dirty money?

First there was the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Then came respiratory syncytial virus or RSV. Influenza followed that. No sooner did RSV and flu begin to fade than norovirus started spreading. If you are not familiar with this highly infectious virus, it is also known as the cruise ship virus. It causes severe gastrointestinal distress with pain, nausea and vomiting as well as diarrhea. Why should you beware norovirus?

Why Should You Beware Norovirus NOW?

The CDC reports that this easily transmitted infection is widespread across the country. British public health officials are also reporting much higher rates of norovirus than usual.

There is no effective treatment other than tincture of time. It’s important for patients to stay hydrated and avoid contact with other people.

Because this virus is spread so easily, frequent and thorough hand washing is crucial. That may not be enough, though. More about coffee cup lids, dirty money and norovirus shortly.

Norovirus is Nasty!

Let’s get one thing straight. Norovirus is not restricted to cruise ships.

According to the CDC:

“Worldwide, about one out of every five cases of acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach or intestines) that leads to diarrhea and vomiting is caused by norovirus. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, annually causing an estimated 685 million cases. About 200 million cases are seen among children under 5 years old, leading to an estimated 50,000 child deaths every year, mostly in developing countries. However, norovirus illness is a problem in both low- and high-income countries. Every year, norovirus is estimated to cost $60 billion worldwide due to healthcare costs and lost productivity.”

Beware Norovirus in the US:

Lest you think this is just a problem that happens on cruise ships or in other countries, here is what the CDC says about norovirus in the US:

“Norovirus is the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea from acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) among people of all ages in the United States.”

Each year, on average in the United States, norovirus causes:
• 900 deaths, mostly among adults aged 65 and older
• 109,000 hospitalizations
• 465,000 emergency department visits, mostly in young children
• 2,270,000 outpatient clinic visits annually, mostly in young children
• 19 to 21 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea illnesses”

Drilling Down On Gastroenteritis:

Let’s keep this simple. “Gastro” refers to your digestive tract, in this case your stomach and intestines. “Enteritis” is inflammation of the lining of your GI tract.

That’s boring. Sorry. Here’s what it feels like. Some of our visitors have described the symptoms they experienced while taking the drug semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) as an “intestinal apocalypse.”

That’s how I would describe an attack of norovirus. Remember, nearly 500,000 people go to an emergency room in the US each year because of norovirus. That is not your average case of nausea of vomiting.

Why Should You Beware Norovirus?

There is a reason to beware norovirus. It can come on suddenly, with very little warning. When we say nausea and vomiting, that does not do this virus justice. Think PROJECTILE VOMITING! Please do not ask me to describe that. Just let your imagination run wild. It is not pleasant! Abdominal cramps, severe and frequent diarrhea attacks are also common symptoms.

Viruses are a leading cause of gastroenteritis. Norovirus (formally known as Norwalk or Norwalk-like virus) is one of the nastiest. Why Norwalk? The virus was named for Norwalk, Ohio. That’s where the first outbreak occurred in a school in 1968. The virus was identified in 1972.

Beware Norovirus! You Do NOT Want This “Stomach Flu”

Remember, there is no cure for norovirus! Antibiotics will not help. There is no vaccine to prevent an outbreak.

Once you have caught a case of norovirus, it will have to run its course. You will not be able to “grin and bear it.” Remember those words: “Intestinal Apocalypse”!

Coffee Cup Lids And Dirty Money?

The title of this piece is “Beware Norovirus, Coffee Cup Lids and Dirty Money.” What do coffee cup lids and dirty money have to do with norovirus?

Before we answer that question, you have to understand that norovirus is incredibly contagious!

The CDC states that:

• “It only takes a very small amount of norovirus particles (fewer than 100) to make you sick.
• People with norovirus illness shed billions of virus particles in their stool and vomit and can easily infect others.
• You are contagious from the moment you begin feeling sick and for the first few days after you recover.
• Norovirus can spread quickly in enclosed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships.
• Norovirus can stay on objects and surfaces and still infect people for days or weeks.
• Norovirus can survive some disinfectants, making it hard to get rid of.”

Think about COVID for a moment. It is actually pretty hard to catch COVID from touching door handles, groceries or mail. That’s because the main way people transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus is through the air by breathing in viral particles.

Viruses are measured in nanometers (nm). The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 ranges roughly from 50 nm to 140 nm. The norovirus is smaller, ranging from 27 nm to 38 nm. That means they can, to quote the CDC, “stay on objects and surfaces and still infect people for days or weeks.”

It only takes 100 of these tiny particles to make you sick. As much as I hate to mention this, projectile vomiting spreads billions of virus particles everywhere and they are hard to clean up or kill! They get on hands, toilet seats, faucets, door knobs and goodness knows where else. Then they get on other hands!

Coffee Cup Lids and Dirty Money!

Here are two articles that have created a lot of drama on this website. We describe situations we have observed where the barista takes your money at the cash register, turns around and grabs a paper cup, fills it with coffee and then pushes the lid down with the same hand that took your money.

We also describe dirty money. You would be amazed what germs have been found on the money you have in your wallet or pocket. And remember, norovirus can persist for days or weeks on all sorts of objects.

We think you will find these two articles entertaining and enlightening. The comments from visitors to this website will amaze you.

Should You Worry About Germs on Your Coffee Cup Lid?

Why Do People Fight About Coffee Cup Lid Contamination?

We have been severely chastised by visitors to this website for cautioning about contaminated coffee cup lids. That’s because there are a lot of people who do not believe in the germ theory of disease. Here are just a smattering of comments from riled up readers who read the articles mentioned above.

Cindy and many other visitors don’t worry about “germs”:

“I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating. l am DEFINITELY in the WHO-CARES camp. Not only have I never paid one bit of attention to germs of any kind, most things I do are quite germ-laden. Like petting and kissing animals, retrieving cups out of public trash cans if I need one, and drinking out of them; like eating dirt, like NEVER washing my hands.

“I also drink out of every stream in the mountains. I never get a flu shot; yet I don’t even get colds. If one eats all the right foods, takes all the right supplements and gets lots of exercise, I think that’s all it takes! IMHO, this germ-phobia thing bites people in the rear and makes them get sick more readily. (BTW, I’m now 70!) Cheers.”

Flo says the same thing a bit more succinctly:

“Geez. Even Peoples Pharmacy has given in to the germ phobia in America. Give your immune system a workout & it will take better care of you. Eat Dirt!”

Tom says germs are everywhere, so don’t worry. I bet he has never had a case of intestinal apocalypse. Your immune system will not protect you from norovirus!

“This is getting ridiculous. Germs are everywhere and your best defense is a healthier immune system. That means for many people altering their diets somewhat and living a healthier lifestyle. Just a few changes can help you fight the invasion of germs into your system, which by the way is filled with billions of bacteria and other so-called nasties.”

Final Words:

We care about your health! That is why we spend so many hours each week writing these articles. We do not want you to come down with an intestinal apocalypse!

That’s why we want you to beware norovirus. It is spreading like crazy. Use good common sense and wash your hands thoroughly. Your immune system will not protect you from this “germ.”

If you have ever had “stomach flu” or norovirus, please share what it was like in the comment section below. If you think this article is worth sharing with family or friends, please scroll to the top of the page and click on the email, Twitter or Facebook icon and send it along.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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