Few viruses are more dreaded than norovirus—an uber-contagious illness that causes vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, fever, and body aches. Now, imagine that you could stop the spread of the nasty bug with one of life’s simplest tasks: washing your hands. Well, according to new research, that’s exactly what it takes.
In the study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers looked at how effective different practices such as hand-washing, isolating sick people, and cleaning were at preventing the spread of norovirus. They found that hand-washing worked best at blocking norovirus outbreaks.
Freshen Up Your Hand-Washing Skills
Washing your hands may seem simple, but doing it frequently and properly is key. Be sure to wash your hands at these crucial times:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating
- Before and after taking care of someone who’s sick
- After using the restroom
- After changing a diaper or helping a child with using the toilet
- After handling garbage
- After touching an animal, pet food, or animal waste
- Always follow these steps when washing your hands:
- Wet your hands with water. It doesn’t matter if it’s warm or cold.
- Apply soap and rub your hands together, fronts and backs, for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse and dry your hands.
What to Do if You Get Sick
Hand-washing is so effective at stopping norovirus because of how it’s spread. As unpleasant as it sounds, you can get sick when vomit or stool from an infected person gets into your mouth. This can happen through several different ways:
- Touching a surface or object that may be contaminated and then putting your fingers in your mouth
- Coming into contact with someone who’s infected, such as shaking their hands, sharing utensils, or caring for them
It’s not always possible to know when someone is infected with norovirus. The virus can show up in the stool before they start feeling sick. And even once they’re better, the virus can remain in the stool for two weeks or more. That’s why it’s so important to be vigilant about hand-washing since you can come into contact with the virus at any time. You also don’t want it to come back after someone has recovered from the virus.
Currently, there’s no treatment for norovirus. If you get sick, drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. If you think you or someone you’re caring for may be dehydrated—symptoms include dizziness when standing up, decrease in urination, and dry mouth—contact your doctor. Intravenous fluids at a hospital may be needed. Symptoms due to norovirus typically last for one to three days.
Online Medical Reviewer: Kenneth Turley, Raymond, BSN, MSN, RN