What’s Scarier Than Halloween? The Stomach Flu.
Posted by Natalie Simone
There are so many wonderful things about the fall…cooler air, crisp apples, pumpkin patches, cute kids in Halloween costumes, football and the list goes on. Fall is also the prelude, if you will, to the holidays and even colder weather. All things that make me want to grab a hot toddy, warm blanket and sit in front of a fire place. However, there is one thing that can ruin all of those fun things. What could be scarier than Halloween haunted houses, you ask. It’s a little something called the flu.
Bird flu, influenza, H1N1, swine flu. Every year it’s as if there is a new strain that we all are prone to get. This year though it’s not just the regular ol’ flu we all need to watch for – it’s the stomach flu – which medical professionals and the media are calling the Norovirus Stomach Flu. This norovirus is nothing to mess around with that is for sure. Here are some facts about this sickening stomach virus and how you can take measures to protect yourself and your family from being laid out by the virus this season.
What is the Norovirus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus is a somewhat confused term. In layman’s terms, we call it the stomach flu however; if you want to get technical norovirus is not the influenza virus, which is a respiratory illness. Norovirus is also associated with food poisoning because quite often the virus is transmitted through food that has been contaminated with the virus – this is different from food contamination.
Norovirus is responsible for 19-21 million illnesses in the United States each year and out of those, between 50 thousand to 70 thousand have to be admitted to the hospital and 500 – 800 cases lead to death. Those are of course extreme cases of the illness. Noroviruses are known for causing large outbreaks – think of places such as schools, nursing homes, offices, cruise ships etc.
– stomach cramps
– fever (typically low-grade)
– body aches pains
What if I do get sick? Well you have to ride it out…hopefully, comfortably as possible. The most important thing is to stay hydrated! You want to prevent dehydration while already ill so it is extremely important to keep drinking fluids and also fluids with electrolytes. Like other viruses, the norovirus does not respond to antibiotics, so you really have one option, which is to just stay home and keep as comfortable as possible.
Another important task while sick is disinfecting contaminated surfaces and areas. Cleaning is the last thing you want to do when sick but it is very important to protect the other people in your home. After becoming sick in the bathroom, immediately clean and disinfect the contaminated space. Use a chlorine bleach solution to clean this area. Be sure to wash all towels, washcloths, clothing, blankets etc. that you may have come in contact with while ill. Wash laundry items as you normally would for the maximum cycle time and then machine dry. Wash your hands often.
Down and dirty facts of Norovirus! It spreads quickly and can live a long time. Norovirus germs can stay on surfaces and infect people for weeks and it has been reported that hand sanitizer doesn’t kill the virus completely either. All these things make this an extremely contagious virus.
NOTE: You are contagious the entire time you are sick. From the moment you have the virus in your system (when you are not having any symptoms yet) to sometimes up to two weeks after you recover! (Facts from the Mayo Clinic) Read that sentence again!! This is something all employers need to be especially aware of. Telecommuting/working from home should be encouraged for at least a few days after someone has seemingly recovered from the norovirus. This is not a free pass for two weeks to work from home BUT managers and employees, students and teachers, should know that just because you aren’t experiencing symptoms anymore does not mean you are not still contagious! This goes for them too – don’t come to work or school contagious! This is probably how the virus spreads so rapidly.
Protect yourself! This is the same advice you hear every year. WASH.YOUR.HANDS.OFTEN. Wash your hands often and try not to touch your face throughout the day. Make sure your family is washing their hands way more than they typically would during this time of year. Also, make sure to thoroughly wash all the fruits and vegetables you are eating, which I know you are all doing anyway! But be especially vigilant during this time of year. Wipe down surfaces in your house and work place – door knobs, telephones, keyboards etc.
Spread the word, not the virus!