Ways to avoid norovirus, spreading the illness

Norovirus can stay on surfaces such as doorknobs and handrails for weeks

Outbreaks of a nasty stomach virus are spiking and making millions of people sick. Norovirus is highly contagious, but as Consumer Reports explains, there are ways to avoid getting sick and spreading the virus.

If you’ve been hit with a few days of intense nausea and vomiting, there’s a good chance the culprit was a bug called norovirus.

That’s right, norovirus is sometimes mistakenly called the stomach flu, but it’s actually not caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms of norovirus are vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, and sometimes you can get a fever. And there can be as many as 21 million cases every year in the U.S.

And while norovirus gets a lot of attention for making cruise ship travelers miserable, it can spread quickly in any spot where a lot of people are in close quarters, and as any parent will tell you, that means it’s very common in schools.

Worse, the virus is very contagious and hardy! It can stay on surfaces such as doorknobs and handrails for weeks. So how can you avoid it?

Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for norovirus. So, hand washing is really your number one thing. And that means diligently washing hands, frequently washing your hands, and thoroughly washing them with soap and water. Hand sanitizer alone is not going to cut it.

If someone in your home has gotten sick with norovirus, disinfect contaminated surfaces with bleach-based cleaning products, or make your own using 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach added to a gallon of water. Wash linens, towels, and clothes that might have been contaminated.

If you get sick, stay home so that you don’t spread it to anyone else. Just allow the virus to run its course, usually about one to three days. Drink a lot of liquids because severe dehydration can land you in the emergency room.

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