Norovirus cases might be on the rise in February

Help prevent the spread of this virus.

The norovirus may be on the rise in February, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). So what is norovirus? Norovirus is a highly contagious virus. We often may hear norovirus illness called "food poisoning" or "stomach flu." It is true that food poisoning can be caused by noroviruses, but other germs and chemicals can also cause food poisoning. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu, which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.

Michigan State University Extension encourages you to learn more about norovirus and how to keep you and your family safe. The virus infects the stomach and/or intestines, causing nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can also include body aches, fever and headaches. With norovirus, it takes little contact to spread the virus and symptoms usually develop within 12-48 hours after being exposed. The virus typically spreads through vomit, stool, changing diapers, shaking hands and touching contaminated surfaces or objects.  It can spread quickly in closed environments, like daycare centers, schools and nursing homes. Be sure to follow cleaning and sanitizing practices to stop the spread of the virus. It is important to realize that there is no specific medicine to treat people with a norovirus illness. Norovirus can’t be treated with antibiotics because it is a viral infection, not caused by bacteria, so taking an antibiotic will not be helpful in treating Norovirus. If you have norovirus illness, you should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from throwing up and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration. Be cautious with young children and elderly individuals who have norovirus since dehydration can develop much faster for them.

Norovirus is common during winter months, but the CDC is expecting a large spike in February and March based on outbreak reports. Symptoms will be more frequent and will last longer.

Help prevent the spread of the norovirus by following these tips:                                   

  • Wash hands with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer after washing hands, not in place of handwashing.
  • If you’re sick, don’t prepare any food or take care of others for at least two days after your symptoms stop.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with cool, running water.
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces and objects.
  • Cook any seafood and all meats thoroughly, using a calibrated thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperatures.
  • Thoroughly wash contaminated clothing, bedding and towels.

Using the safety measures outlined above, you will keep yourself and your family safe from foodborne illnesses all year long. 

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