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Hand Washing a Key to Avoiding Norovirus

Laurie Nate
By Laurie Nate

Springtime is once again upon us, and it seems there is always some illness going around. Because of this, we have become very accustomed to hand sanitizers, hand washing, and other methods to avoid getting various viruses.

Norovirus is a unique virus that causes gastrointestinal symptoms, in other words the famous: nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. No one wants these kinds of symptoms, but they do keep appearing. It is prevalent November through April but can be present year-round.
Norovirus is spread through fecal-oral transmission or through air droplets when vomiting. This virus is very stable and can survive on surfaces in the environment. It can tolerate freezing and is not deterred by chlorine or alcohol. Given these hardy traits, hand washing is our best friend. Washing our hands has the most impact on many viruses and germs.
Usually, you will hear of outbreaks on cruise ships, in long term care facilities, anywhere there are many people gathered in a close area. Norovirus can also be contained in some foods such as leafy greens, fresh fruits, and shellfish. Fresh foods can be reservoirs for many illnesses because they typically do not get heated to a high enough temperature to kill many organisms.

Symptoms of Norovirus can range from mild to severe; this is impacted by the health of the individual that contracts the virus. A person can have mild illness with fever and diarrhea to more significant symptoms that include nausea, vomiting (without blood), abdominal pain, muscle aches, headache, and over all just not feeling well.
A person will usually start with symptoms 24-to-48 hours after exposure and will usually be sick for only three days but could be as long as five days. Keep in mind that you can shed the virus for up to four weeks, so ongoing hygiene and good handwashing will always be a mainstay of good health. If you have additional questions or concerns, please reach out to your primary care provider.

– Laurie Nate is a Family Nurse Practitioner, working for Health West in Preston, Idaho. She is also available for telehealth visits from our service area in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. She enjoys patients of all ages and looks forward to working with you on your healthcare goals.



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