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Prevent the Spread of Norovirus ( Food Poisoning )

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Norovirus causes many people to become ill with vomiting and diarrhea each year. You can help protect yourself and others by washing your hands often and following simple tips to stay healthy.

Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that can cause gastroenteritis (GAS-tro-en-ter-I-tis), which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This leads to cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S.

CDC estimates that each year Norovirus causes 19 to 21 million illnesses, 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths. Anyone can get infected with norovirus and you can get it more than once. It is estimated that a person will get norovirus about 5 times during their lifetime. Many people usually get sick with norovirus in cooler months, especially from November to April.

Norovirus Symptoms

Common symptoms:

  • cramping
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

Less common symptoms:

  • low-grade fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue

Norovirus spreads quickly. It is found in the vomit and stool of infected people. You can get it by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth
  • Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus, for example, when caring for someone with norovirus or sharing foods or eating utensils with them

People with norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick and for the first few days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer. There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection or drug to treat sick people. Learn how to protect yourself and others by following a few simple steps.

Person washing hands with soapWash hands carefully with soap and water.

Protect Yourself and Others from Norovirus

  • Practice proper hand hygiene
    Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. These alcohol-based products can help reduce the number of germs on your hands, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.
  • Take care in the kitchen
    Carefully rinse fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating.
  • Do not prepare food while infected
    People with norovirus illness should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for at least 2 days after they recover from their illness. Also see For Food Workers: Norovirus and Working with Food.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces
    After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, you can use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly
    Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully—try not to shake them —to avoid spreading virus. If available, wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling. Wash soiled items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dry.