Norovirus Prevention

Shaking hands - Wash afterWhat is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a very contagious virus.  There are many different variations of Norovirus so you can become infected multiple times in your life.  It is transmitted from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.  It takes as few as 18 viral particles to make you sick.  Norovirus can be found in your stool (feces) even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better. It is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States.

Wash after using the restroomWhat are the symptoms if I’ve contracted Norovirus?

Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines or both. This is called acute gastroenteritis. The most common symptoms— (resulting in the shedding of billions of viral particles) diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.  Other symptoms include: fever, headache and body aches. A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with Norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.  If you have Norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day.

Norovirus and food

  • Wash Lettuce before usingMost Norovirus outbreaks occur in the food service settings like restaurants and nursing homes. Infected food workers are frequently the source of the outbreaks, often by touching ready-to-eat foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, with their bare hands before serving them. However, any food served raw or handled after being cooked can get contaminated with norovirus.
  • Norovirus outbreaks can also occur from foods, such as oysters, fruits, and vegetables, that are contaminated at their source (contaminated water or in the field).

Prevention

Safe Food Handler1. When you are sick, do not prepare food for others

  • You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 days (48 hours) after symptoms stop.

2. Practice proper hand hygiene

Wash your hands carefully with soap and water

  • especially after using the toilet and changing diapers
  • always before eating, preparing, or handling foodGerms hidden on hands
  • after sneezing, coughing or any activity where your hand comes into contact with your face

Noroviruses can be found in your vomit or stool even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better. It is important to continue washing your hands often during this time.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. But, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.

3. Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly

  • Washing TomatoesCarefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them.
  • Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
  • Be aware that Noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish.
  • Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.

4. Clean and sanitize all work surfaces, counters and utensils

  • CleaningAfter throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

5. Wash laundry thoroughly

  • Wash aprons, towels, table linens and napkins thoroughly
  • Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool (feces).

 

For more information check out the CDC Recommendations for:
Food Service Workers
Health Care Workers