That Nasty Norovirus is ‘Everywhere’ Now

Desiree Turpin (5 PM Micro) found this article from USA Today, describing the current outbreak of norovirus. Long time readers (well, from the Spring 2012 semester) may recall my warning about an outbreak on two cruise ships earlier this year. Here is Desiree’s summary:

The article I am summarizing I found in the USA today newspaper from the February 23, 2012 edition and it was written by Anita Manning. This article talks about the norovirus, which is commonly known as the “stomach flu”. It is a highly contagious virus that strikes about one in every 15 Americans every year. The virus causes sudden diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps that can last twenty-four to forty-eight hours. It is very unpleasant however most people in normal health will not have any complications from this virus and after the time is up will be fine. However, the very young and the very old are the people that really have to be cautious of this virus because these two sections of the population are known to have the worst effects from this virus, including death. Death, however, is not caused by the virus itself, it is caused by the dehydration that may come along with the vomiting and diarrhea.

This virus is usually more active January through April and is the highest season for its activity. In the article it is even joked that February is “Norovirus Appreciation Month”. This virus strikes more than twenty million Americans every year and causes about eight hundred deaths, which is from the dehydration. This virus is very contagious as well. It is able to survive in cold water for as long as 61 days all while continuing to be infectious. It also can be on hard surfaces for up to two weeks (however this is not yet known whether or not it is still infectious). As well as food that are eaten raw can carry this virus.

They say that one of the things that is unusual about the norovirus is that one person who is ill is able to infect a lot of other people. It only takes as few as eighteen particles of the virus to infect someone else. They say that this is unusual because with many other viruses a person needs to be exposed to hundreds of particles of the virus or bacteria. They also say that if you get infected by one strain of the norovirus you can get “walloped” by another strain of the virus or re-infected a few months later by the same one.

People need to be careful about spreading this virus because a person is actually contagious from the moment they first feel ill to at least three days and up to possibly two weeks after they recover from the virus. As of right now there is no treatment or vaccine for the norovirus, but there is hope. There is an antiviral medicine that is in the works, it is in its early development and significant progress is being made towards a vaccine. The vaccine could be ready in a few short years. They are calling it LigoCyte and right now they are testing a nasal spray version of the vaccine in human volunteers. The vaccine is though likely to require annual boosters because of changes to the virus or new strains.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on March 22, 2012, in Guest Post, Wash your hands! and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This lends credence to the BIG impact simply washing your hands can have on your health. It’s overlooked much too frequently. This article makes me want to wash my hands EVERYTIME I touch something public at YCP, especially a computer. Now unless I walk around with a can of lysol in my bookbag or buy stock piles of hand sanitizer, this most likely is not going to happen. But I do get annoyed when I go to use hand sanitizer just as I’m exiting the computer lab (right before eating lunch) and there is none left. The hand sanitizer in one of the computer labs on main campus has been empty for the last 2 months! No one pays attention to it, because it seems trivial and unimportant. But EVERYONE uses these computers. I don’t know where the students using them before me were this past weekend or where they just came back from during spring break and more importantly I dont know WHAT they brought back with them from where they were on spring break—from the looks of it, the virus in this article summary is extreeeeemely easy to spread! So I would damn sure appreciate there being SOME way I can clean my hands after touching a computer, right before I eat lunch, without having to go into the bathroom, wet my hands, use soap and water, ect. “The best way to prevent Norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness.” My question to anyone who knows the answer is… since hand sanitizer claims that it can kill 99% of the bacteria present– is it just as acceptable as actual handwashing with warm soapy water for 15 seconds?

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