The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Can You Avoid Norovirus?

Norovirus is extremely contagious and spreading in several states. To avoid it, use conscientious handwashing and disinfection tactics.

Norovirus, the plague of cruise ships, is also known as the winter vomiting bug. It is highly contagious and is starting to circulate this winter. Michigan is being especially hard hit. There are also cases showing up in Wisconsin, Ohio, Connecticut, California and Oregon.

What Are the Symptoms of Norovirus?

Symptoms come on suddenly with severe vomiting and diarrhea. Victims may also have headaches, stomach cramps and fever.

Can You Avoid Norovirus?

To prevent the spread of norovirus, conscientious handwashing is critical. A few years ago, researchers at the University of Arizona studied the spread of viruses by using a bacteriophage virus that resembles norovirus in size and shape (Sassi, American Journal of Infection Control, July 1, 2015). They put the test virus, which is noninfectious but easily detected, on a single door knob or table at the start of several research days in office buildings and a health care facility in Tucson.

Throughout each day, they sampled other surfaces such as light switches, tap handles, bed rails or computer equipment. Nearly two-thirds of the surfaces studied had been contaminated within the first few hours of the day.

The lead researcher, Chuck Gerba, PhD, determined that washing hands and using disinfectant wipes could stop this predictable spread almost completely. All we need to do is convince everyone to use these simple strategies. As your mother probably told you countless times, wash your hands. Don’t rely on hand sanitizer, as it does not work well against this virus. Scrubbing with soap and water works better.

Don’t Forget to Disinfect:

However, washing up may not be enough, since flushing the toilet can spread infectious droplets around the bathroom. Consequently, the CDC recommends that bathroom surfaces be cleaned frequently with a bleach-based cleanser (or one cup of bleach in a gallon of water) to disinfect them. A sick person should not cook for or care for others, as that might spread norovirus. In addition, food should be cooked completely, and laundry should be washed thoroughly with hot water.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I am wondering if, as a culture, we are overindulging in the use of “sanitary procedures”such as constant washing of hands, massive use (abuse?) of ‘hand sanitizer’ and effectively minimizing the activation of our immune systems.

I presume that, much like our muscles, if our immune systems aren’t regularly challenged, tested gently, and required to be active they will not be as strong as they should be when we are faced with insult.

The cruise ships now have hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE and make you use it before entering a restaurant, I was not happy to see hand sanitizer is not that effective!

ONE CUP of BLEACH!!! Are they nuts!?!

Computer users: remember to clean your keyboard and mouse with alcohol.

Article failed to mention the states with high rates of norovirus? Are they secret? Worried about public panic? Other?

Hello Captain,

Did you not bother to read the first paragraph?

“Michigan is being especially hard hit. There are also cases showing up in Wisconsin, Ohio, Connecticut, California and Oregon”.

I had this once and it was a horrible six hours or so. Finally fell asleep and woke up very dehydrated. The worst part I was on a ski vacation and couldn’t really ski the next day. Had to just recover.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^