Norovirus: the holiday gift nobody wants‘Tis the season of giving, but too many Minnesotans this time of year give and receive something nobody wants: norovirus infection.
‘Tis the season of giving, but too many Minnesotans this time of year give and receive something nobody wants: norovirus infection.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can cause inflammation of the stomach and intestines, leading to vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Other symptoms can include low-grade fevers or chills, headaches and muscle aches.
Noroviruses are very contagious and are the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in Minnesota, according to state health officials. The viruses are transferred to food, water or surfaces by the hands of infected people who have not washed adequately after using the bathroom.
November through January is the peak time of year for norovirus infections in Minnesota. People become infected with norovirus by:
--Eating food or drinking liquids contaminated by an infected person.
--Eating uncooked shellfish that has been harvested from contaminated waters.
--Touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their mouth or eating without washing their hands first.
Steps to prevent getting the virus include:
--Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds after using the bathroom and changing diapers and before preparing foods and eating.
--Wash your hands more often when someone in your household is sick.
--Clean and disinfect surfaces with a household bleach solution immediately after vomiting or diarrheal accidents.
--Steam oysters before eating them.
--Avoid preparing food for others while you have symptoms and for at least three days after you recover.
Symptoms of norovirus usually begin one or two days after ingesting the virus but may appear as early as 12 hours after exposure. The illness typically comes on suddenly. The infected person may feel very sick and vomit often. People infected with norovirus who have no symptoms can still pass the virus to others.
Most people recover in one or two days and have no long-term health effects. After people recover, they still remain infectious to others for at least several days.
If norovirus symptoms develop, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, wash hands often, don’t prepare food for others and contact a health care provider.
For more information, visit www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/norovirus/index.html.