CONSUMER REPORTS: How to avoid the norovirus

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Every year up to 21 million Americans get sick from Norovirus. Often associated with cruise ships and hospital, it spreads easily in confined spaces. This year, it's forced schools and colleges all across the country to temporarily close.

Dr. Orly Avitzur, Consumer Reports Medical Advisor warns, "Often mistakenly called the stomach flu but not related to influenza, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, and occasionally fever."

You can get the illness anytime of the year but it's most common in the winter. Norovirus spreads through fecal matter, contaminated food or coming into contact with someone who is sick with the virus.
Dr Avitzur says, "If you are close to someone who is vomiting you may get sick through aerosolized particles. If that happens you'll probably see symptoms within 12-48 hours."

So what should you do to avoid it? Consumer Reports recommends washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 30 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling food. Hand sanitizers alone do not work.

Also, if someone in your home has gotten sick with norovirus, disinfect contaminated surfaces with 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water. Wash linens, towels and clothes that might have been contaminated.

If you do get sick, Consumer Reports recommends staying home to avoid spreading it to others. Allow the virus to run its course - usually 1 to 3 days. Drink lots of liquids as severe dehydration can land you in the emergency room. There is currently no vaccine for Norovirus.