Norovirus Infection Affects Millions a Year
According to the Centers for Disease Control, of all viruses, only the common cold is reported more often than norovirus, which is often referred to as gastroenteritis or, more commonly the “stomach flu.” CDC figures estimate that the norovirus causes 23 million cases of gastroenteritis per year, and that’s more than half of all gastroenteritis cases in the U.S.
Like many other causes of foodborne illness, the norovirus is usually transmitted into out systems by consuming food or water that has been contaminated by feces, although this is one of the few that can also be transmitted from person to person. The most likely cause of a norovirus outbreak is improper food handling. Raw vegetables that are not washed properly, or undercooked meat and seafood are the most common sources for infection. It is not unusual for a norovirus infection to cause extended outbreaks, because they are easily transmitted and are resistant to common household disinfectants.
The incubation period for a norovirus is normally 24 to 48 hours, which is when symptoms usually begin to appear. For most people an infection only lasts 24 to 72 hours. The symptoms of norovirus infection can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, headaches and low-grade fever. In most cases the norovirus will run its course within a few days, but in some cases the symptoms themselves can be more severe, and lead to more serious medical problems. Occasionally, the norovirus can cause dehydration, malnutrition, and even death. Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, such as patients in hospitals and nursing homes, are more susceptible to complications from the virus than others.
How to Avoid Norovirus
Those are just the most common sources; nearly any food that is raw or that has been handled after cooking can become contaminated with norovirus. There is no vaccine for norovirus and there is no medication available to treat it. However, contamination is quite preventable, by following some very basic tips:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often. – Washing your hands carefully and completely with soap and warm water is the best way to prevent contamination, especially after using the toilet of changing a diaper, and certainly just before you prepare food. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but recognize that soap and water are still better.
- Wash food thoroughly. – Carefully wash all fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and cook shellfish thoroughly before eating them, including oysters.
- Never prepare food if you have been infected by any foodborne illness. – Those infected with norovirus should not prepare food for anyone while they have symptoms and for at least three days after the fully recover from the illness.
- Clean and disinfect contaminated cooking and food preparation surfaces. – Use a bleach-based household cleaner to thoroughly clean and disinfect any surface after you or anyone in the home have thrown up or had diarrhea. Always use the cleaning product as directed. As a substitute, you can use a solution of 3 tablespoons of household bleach for every gallon of water to clean and disinfect. Wear gloves as you do all of this.
- Launder clothing and other materials as soon as possible. – Immediately after being infected, wash any clothing, linens or other potentially contaminated materials in a washer. Handle soiled clothing carefully to avoid spreading the virus. The items should be washed with a strong detergent at the longest available cycle and the hottest water possible, then dried in a machine, not outside on a line.
- Stay home from work. – You will be contagious until at least 2-3 days after the symptoms end. This is especially the case if your job involves handling food. Children who suffer a norovirus infection should be kept home from school or child care for at least as long. In fact, everyone should stay home and avoid travel until all symptoms have ceased and the infection has cleared.
Contact Our Firm
If you suspect you may have contracted a norovirus infection, seek medical attention immediately. If you believe contaminated food caused your norovirus symptoms, you may be entitled to compensation for your illness. The attorney at Hill Law Firm in San Antonio, Texas have experience taking on some of the largest companies in the United States in food borne illnesses cases. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by food contamination, please call the Food Poisoning Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm immediately. It is important to move quickly to preserve evidence and your rights.