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Norovirus

What is it?

Norovirus, reproduced courtesy of the Centre for Communicable Disease Control

Norovirus is one cause of gastroenteritis. Norovirus is easily spread on contaminated hands and objects, and when people eat food or drink fluids contaminated with the virus.

What are the Symptoms?

  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea usually occurs 10 - 50 hours after consumption of the virus. Headache, fever and chills may also occur.
  • Symptoms usually last from 12 to 72 hours, but some people may be unwell for longer.
  • Symptoms can be mild and sometimes infected people have no symptoms.

How is it Spread?

  • People become infected when they swallow the virus.
  • When people are ill, they excrete a large amount of norovirus in their faeces. Food can become contaminated if infected food handlers don’t wash their hands well after toileting or changing children’s nappies.
    Food can become contaminated if infected foodhandlers don’t wash their hands well after toileting.
  • Contamination is relatively easy from hands, hard surfaces, toys, utensils and other contaminated objects in the environment.
  • Direct person to person spread might occur through direct contact or by inhaling airborne particles of virus released during breathing, and can occur through inhaling airborne particles of virus released during vomiting.
  • Norovirus is very hardy and can survive for long periods on any surface touched by contaminated hands.
  • This is particularly so for toilet surfaces, door knobs and tap fittings.

In the environment

  • Human sewage and sewage polluted water can contaminate shellfish beds.
  • Irrigation and drinking water can be a source, if they are not treated adequately.

How is it Treated?

  • There is no specific treatment to rid your body of the virus. Your immune system will overcome the virus, given time. To assist with recovery, extra fluid and rest are recommended.
  • However, a doctor should always be consulted if symptoms are severe and they may give further advice or treat specific symptoms.

How to Prevent it?

  • Proper hand hygiene (thorough washing+drying) is critical as infection can be transmitted from improperly cleaned hands to food, drink or environmental surfaces.

  • Clean hands thoroughly. Clean hands are hands that are washed with soap and water for 20 seconds and thoroughly dried on a clean dry cloth towel or disposable paper towel for a further 20 seconds. Clean hands after contact with soiled articles, after going to the toilet and before handling food.

  • Wash soiled items separately in warm or hot water. 

  •  Vomit or faeces should be cleaned up using first a detergent solution then a solution of household chlorine bleach. If vomiting occurs outside of the toilet, open windows and doors to direct airflow to the exterior of the building.

Food Handling

  • Don’t handle food/prevent ill food handlers from preparing food at home or work until you or they are free of all symptoms for at least 24 hours after all symptoms cease.

  • Source your shellfish from a reputable supplier.

  • Cook food thoroughly - the virus dies when food is steaming hot.

  • Avoid contact with infants, the elderly or those with long term illness until you are free of all symptoms.

Remember:

  • Strict hand hygiene is extremely important. Clean hands properly (“20 seconds to wash, 20 seconds to dry”) after going to the toilet, before handling food and after touching anything that may be contaminated with Norovirus.
  • Clean up properly and dispose of or wash soiled items (such as nappies) carefully and hygienically.
  • Cook food thoroughly - the virus dies when food is steaming hot.
  • Avoid contact with infants, the elderly or those with long term illness until you are free of all symptoms.
  • Don’t handle food until you are free of all symptoms for at least 24 hours.

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