The norovirus is one of the main causes of stomach flu or gastroenteritis. It is important to note that it is actually quite prevalent than most realize and most are likely to have experienced at least one episode at some point in life due to its contagious nature.
How norovirus spreads
The outbreaks of norovirus are known to spread rapidly which is why many individuals become abruptly sick all at once. Only a small amount is needed for norovirus to trigger illness. It simply means that the amount of virus that is found on the head of a pin can infect thousands.
The outbreaks of the virus in communities are typically linked with sharing of food or close contact including daycare centers, schools, nursing homes, restaurants, cruise ships or any location where many share close quarters. The spread of norovirus can occur in the following ways:
- Consumption of food or beverages contaminated by norovirus
- Touching contaminated surfaces and touching the nose, eyes or mouth
- Shaking hands with a contaminated individual
- Sharing food or utensils with infected individuals
- Being exposed to the airborne droplets after an infected individual vomited
- Cleaning up after an infected individual had diarrhea or vomited
Always bear in mind that food-borne contamination is typically linked with either raw fruits or leafy vegetables or poorly cooked or raw shellfish and oysters. Other foods that are linked with norovirus include sandwiches and salad ingredients. Nevertheless, the food-related outbreaks can be linked to an infected food handler who unknowingly passed the virus to others.
The norovirus is considered as a hardy and highly resistant microorganism. It simply means that the typical methods in eliminating the germs are not always effective in eliminating the virus.
The norovirus is also capable of surviving heat and water exposure up to 140 degrees. It is also capable of thriving on hard surfaces for weeks as well as in contaminated water and fabrics. Due to the highly contagious nature of norovirus, only minimal exposure is required to trigger an infection. With this in mind, prevention is vital.
Once an individual is suspected with norovirus infection, he/she is considered contagious while symptomatic and for 2 days after the resolution of the symptoms. During this period, the individual must not prepare food or provide personal care to others.