What Is A Norovirus?
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes acute gastroenteritis, commonly called stomach flu or stomach bug. It is responsible for millions of cases of gastroenteritis annually in the United States alone, making it the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide. In this article, we will explore what a Norovirus is, how it is transmitted, its symptoms, and ways to prevent infection.
What is a Norovirus?
Norovirus belongs to a family of viruses known as Caliciviridae. It is a small, single-stranded RNA virus that is highly contagious and can survive for extended periods outside the body. The virus causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Norovirus can affect people of all ages and is particularly prevalent in settings such as schools, nursing homes, and cruise ships.
How is Norovirus transmitted?
Norovirus is highly contagious and can be easily transmitted through person-to-person contact, contaminated food or water, and contact with contaminated surfaces. The virus can survive on surfaces for several days and easily spread through the fecal-oral route. This means that if someone with Norovirus uses the bathroom and does not properly wash their hands, the virus can be spread to other people who touch contaminated surfaces.
Norovirus can also be transmitted through food and water contaminated with the virus. Shellfish, fruits, and vegetables contaminated with Norovirus have been implicated in many outbreaks. Infected food handlers can also spread the virus to others if they do not adequately wash their hands after using the bathroom.
What are the symptoms of Norovirus?
The symptoms of Norovirus typically appear within 12-48 hours of infection and can last for 1-3 days. The most common symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
- Low-grade fever
- Body aches
Symptoms can vary in severity, with some people experiencing mild symptoms while others can become severely dehydrated and require hospitalization. Infants, young children, and older adults are at higher risk for severe illness and dehydration.
Taking precautions to prevent infection and keep yourself and your coworkers safe is important. Here are some tips on how to be safe in the workplace with Norovirus:
- Stay home if you are sick: If you are experiencing symptoms of Norovirus, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, stay home and avoid coming to work until you fully recover. This will help prevent the spread of the virus to others.
- Wash your hands frequently: Regular hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of Norovirus. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after using the bathroom, and after contacting potentially contaminated surfaces.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly: Norovirus can survive on surfaces for several days, so it is essential to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, and keyboards. Use a bleach-based cleaner to disinfect surfaces and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Avoid sharing food and drinks: Sharing can increase the risk of norovirus transmission. Avoid sharing utensils, cups, and bottles with coworkers, and bring your food and drinks to work.
- Follow food safety guidelines: If your workplace has a cafeteria or kitchen, ensure that food handlers follow strict food safety guidelines. Cooked food should be heated to the appropriate temperature, and raw fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before consumption.
- Wear gloves and protective equipment: If you work in healthcare or food service, wearing gloves and other protective gear can help prevent the spread of Norovirus. Make sure to follow proper glove use and disposal procedures to avoid cross-contamination.
By following these tips, you can help prevent the spread of Norovirus in the workplace and keep yourself and your coworkers safe. Talk to your supervisor or HR department for guidance if you have concerns or questions about Norovirus.