Did you know that unlike most other viruses, it can take our bodies up
to five times as long to develop immunity to the norovirus? Norovirus
is what causes “stomach flu,” also known as gastroenteritis.
If you’ve ever contracted the virus yourself or known someone who
has, you know exactly how unpleasant it can be. Norovirus is rapt with
symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, body aches and fatigue.
More recently, concerns have been rising as the number of cases have been
increasing, including numerous outbreaks at fast-food restaurant chains.
However, norovirus, while unpleasant, is not fatal, and there are many
healthy habits that you can develop to help reduce your risk of exposure
and keep that tummy happy.
Habit 1 - Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
Also known as the "winter vomiting bug," norovirus is one of
the most common foodborne diseases. It has been around since the 1970s
and is often associated with food poisoning because of its relationship
to food contamination. By scrubbing the surface of your fruits and vegetables
thoroughly with water, you are removing any traces of bacteria and essentially
drowning any traces of the virus that might be living on it.
Habit 2 – Wash your hands often with antibacterial soap.
Like the flu, norovirus is highly contagious and can be contracted by coming
into contact with pretty much anything that has come into contact with
it. Handling infected foods, objects or surfaces and then rubbing your
eyes, nose or mouth is a sure-fire way to catch the norovirus blues. So
wash your hands for at least 15 seconds, especially after changing diapers
or handling raw foods. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also an excellent option.
Habit 3 – Dispose of raw food sources properly.
Raw food is a breeding ground for all kinds of mold, germs and bacteria
too. So double bag those bits of uncooked meat, vegetables, and fruits
before discarding them. If you’ve got green waste recycling, then
be sure to keep your green waste bin locked up outside, and far away from
your eating and food prep surfaces.
Habit 4 – Keep surfaces clean.
Wipe down the surfaces around the house with a combination of detergent
and bleach. Bleach kills more germs than any other, but can be harmful
to your skin. So be sure to wear gloves when you use it.
Habit 5 – Don’t eat raw foods.
Yes, oysters are yummy, but they are just as tasty cooked as they are raw.
Perhaps even more so. If you’ve ever had a grill roasted oyster,
you know what we mean. The grill enhances the flavor more and also has
the added benefit of eliminating all the unwanted bacteria, present in
uncooked seafood, that our stomachs find super unfriendly.
By adopting some simple, hygienic habits, you can help to reduce your risk
of exposure. If you do contract the illness, however, be sure to stay
hydrated by drinking lots of fluids filled with electrolytes. Many sports
drinks have electrolytes, but they are also high in sugar, so best left
for the athletes. Instead, opt for low-sugar hydrators designed for children
and infants, or more natural sources like coconut water and fruit juices
that have no added sugar. Like most common viruses, norovirus does not
respond to antibiotics, so the only way to get better is to get lots of
rest and stay hydrated.