July 15, 2024

CDC Offers Tips to Prevent the Spread of Norovirus

During the winter months when more people are indoors and in close quarters, norovirus cases, a type of food poisoning, increase; more than 80% of norovirus outbreaks occur from November to April. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is offering tips to help you protect yourself and others against this virus.


Norovirus is the name for a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and intestines, which is also known as gastroenteritis. Symptoms of this illness are abdominal and stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Officials think that this pathogenic virus causes about 20 million illnesses in the United States every year, 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations, and about 700 deaths.

Many people call this illness the “stomach flu.” But it is not related to influenza.

Anyone can get norovirus, and you can get it more than once. The CDC estimates that a person will contract norovirus about five times over a lifetime.

This virus spreads quickly. It is in the vomit and feces of infected people. It spreads by direct physical contact with an ill person, by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated with the virus, and touching surfaces or objects that have norovirus on them, then putting hands or fingers in your mouth.

People who have contracted this virus are contagious from the moment they feel sick until the first few days after recovery. Some may be contagious for a longer period of time.

To protect yourself against this virus, it’s critical that you wash your hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet, after changing diapers, and after taking care of someone who is sick, especially with a diarrheal illness. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers aren’t quite as effective against the virus, but they can help.

Handle food carefully and prepare food safely. Norovirus outbreaks have been linked to raw and undercooked oysters, and fruits and vegetables. If you have had norovirus, don’t prepare food for others while you are sick and for at least two days after you recover.

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces after someone has been sick. A solution of 5 tablespoons to 1-1/2 cups of household bleach to one gallon of water is a good cleaning solution.

Norovirus outbreaks have occurred on cruise ships, in nursing homes, daycare centers, and schools. It is also a major cause of outbreaks in restaurants and catered meal settings.

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