This virus is made up of any of the single-stranded RNA viruses comprising the Norwalk virus, commonly referred to as the winter bug. Noroviruses are the most commonly occurring cause of acute gastroenteritis, which is an infection of the stomach and intestines. Norovirus illness spreads from person to person easily, and is often called stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis as well as the winter bug.
People infected with norovirus can spread the sickness to other people through contact, typically of the skin, or can contaminate food or drinks they prepare for others. The virus can also survive and thrive on surfaces that have been in contact with an infected person.
The most common way of spreading the virus comes from the consumption of ready-to-consume foods such as fruits and vegetables that have been handled by someone already infected. Any other foods contaminated with vomit or feces from an infected person can also spread the virus.
The virus can often be identified by the symptoms associated with it, which include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. If diarrhea is among the symptoms, it tends to be watery and not bloody. Diarrhea is more common in adults and vomiting is more common in children, but both can be present.
The virus typically goes away on its own, but the sufferer will need to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest in order to heal. Seek medical attention if staying hydrated is difficult since dehydration could prevent proper recovery.
The infection is typically simple to avoid by taking these precautions:
Always wash your hands before eating or preparing food or beverages.
Always avoid skin contact with food you are preparing.
All tools used to make or serve food should be properly disinfected before coming in contact with food.
If you are aware that you have the virus, avoid cooking for others.
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming.
If your clothes have come into contact with feces or vomit, always wash them right away just in case the virus is present.
The severity of foodborne illness can vary from person to person due to individualized symptoms, so even if a virus clears on its own, precautions should still be taken in order to avoid contamination in the first place. For more information on avoiding the contraction and spread of illnesses such as norovirus, consult sources such as the National Institutes of Health.