Medjet Update: Staying Healthy at Sea – Tips for Combating Norovirus
By: John Gobbels
Noroviruses are the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States. CDC estimates that each year on average 19 to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis are caused by Noroviruses. That means about 1 in every 15 Americans will get Norovirus illness each year. Norovirus is also estimated to cause 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths each year in the United States.
Noroviruses are a group of related viruses. Infection with these viruses causes gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This leads to symptoms of stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Other, less common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and general sense of fatigue.
Norovirus illness is usually not serious and most people get better in 1 to 3 days. However, Norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions. It can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.
So how do we get Norovirus?
- Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with Norovirus
- Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth
- Having direct contact with a person who is infected with Norovirus, for example, when caring for someone with Norovirus or sharing foods or eating utensils with them
So how do we protect ourselves from Norovirus?
- Wash your hands – Sounds simple, but it’s never done enough. Alcohol based hand cleaners can reduce the amount of germs on the hands, but it should never be used as a substitute for proper hand washing.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before consuming
- Clean and disinfect any contaminated areas
- Wash laundry thoroughly