Prevent Norovirus when travelling
Don't get sick whilst on holiday
Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug has been quiet for a while now. An epidemic last swept the nation in 2012 and early 2013 with a new Australian strain (GII.4) thought to be the likely cause. Whilst it is not featuring in the news the last few years, possibly due to the mild weather, there are still several outbreaks every week in the UK. Cruise ships have always been hit hard by this noro virus but it can be caught anywhere. Norovirus is highly contagious with as little as 18 particles needed to make you ill. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, projectile vomiting, headache and nausea.
The virus can survive on hard surfaces for up 12 hours making it very difficult to control especially in confined areas such as cruise ships, hotels, aeroplanes, coaches and trains. People are most contagious at the first onset of symptoms up until three days after symptoms have passed. The virus can be shed in stools for a further two weeks after recovery.
My expertise and experience is shared here with the Top Ten Tips for protecting yourself from norovirus, especially when on holiday. You will also find a brief overview of the virus. Detailed information about norovirus, controlling a norovirus outbreak and decontamination of infected areas can be found on Noro Virus Information and Advice.
It's all about the surfaces
The most important thing to remember is that the virus is usually picked up on your hands by touching a contaminated surface. In order to become infected you have to "swallow" the virus. Hand hygiene is therefore critically important especially because people may be infected but not yet showing symptoms. Remember to use soap and running water to remove the virus from your hands and avoid using towels used by some body else. Using tissues to open doors and use utensils can also reduce the chance of the virus getting on your hands.
Studies have showed that each infected person transmitted the virus to fourteen others until control measures were put in place which cut it down to two. Following guidance issued by your accommodation provider is therefore crucially important in reducing the spread of the virus.
Protect yourself from noro virus when traveling and enjoy your vacation. These simple steps can reduce your exposure to the Norwalk virus and greatly reduce your chances of getting sick
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Ten Tips to prevent norovirus
You are most likely to contract norovirus by touching a contaminated surface and then putting your hands on or in your mouth. This is a major problem if you have small children who are more likely to eat with their hands or put their hands in their mouth. Kids are also less likely to wash their hands and are also more susceptible to the virus due to their weaker immune system.
Tip 1: Teach good hygiene to your kids.
Adults can also catch the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then eating. On holiday you may often eat from a buffet which means handling utensils used by others. You may also need to pull your chair out, another unavoidable hazard just before you eat.
Tip 2: Use tissues or napkins to handle doors and utensils.
Norovirus is usually spread through poor hygiene. People can contaminate food and surfaces if the virus is on their hands. They do not even need to be infected themselves, they may have touched a door handle or spoon that was contaminated. To avoid spreading the virus.
Tip 3: Wash your hands regularly.
The BBC has reported that norovirus is one of few infectious diseases that can be caught from a toilet seat. It is also possible to catch the virus from airborne viral particles in the bathroom if the chain has recently been flushed and infected faeces or vomit was present.
Tip 4: Don't use shared or public toilet facilities.
A Canadian girls soccer team became ill with norovirus in 2012. One girl had caught the virus and spent the night vomiting in the chaperones room. She never rejoined the team but two days later the rest of the team became ill. The source of the outbreak was identified as a carrier bag which had been in the bathroom when the girl was vomiting.
Tip 5: Eat food that has had minimal handling.
Anti bacterial wipes and hand gels are not effective against noro virus and should not be used as a substitute for hand washing. The most effective way of removing viral particles from your hands, use soap and water to wash them down the sink.
Tip 6: Don't substitute hand gels for handwashing.
Viral particles can travel 3 metres during a vomiting episode. Airborne particles can land on surfaces, furniture and your body if an infected person is sick in the same room. These particles can live on surfaces for up to twelve hours and can make other people ill even if they are not present when the person vomited.
Tip 7: Avoid areas where people have vomited.
Food is not a cause of norovirus but it can be a carrier of the virus and is thought to be the cause of around 25% of outbreaks. Often an outbreak will be traced back to one food handler who may have infected dozens of people. Whilst reputable businesses have strict guidelines with regard to staff illness amongst catering staff it's always a possibility that one persons selfish act puts the health of others at risk.
Tip 8: Report signs of staff illness.
Oysters and shellfish are also a potential carrier of norovirus due to the possibility of them being exposed to contaminated water. Salads and other cold foods also pose a greater risk as the virus will be killed in foods cooked to a high temperature.
Tip 9: Avoid shellfish and only eat food that is thoroughly cooked.
Norovirus is highly contagious and rapidly spread. Dubbed the winter vomiting bug because of its prevalence during the winter months, it thrives in confined areas where large numbers of people tend to congregate. Cruise ships are very confined areas which is why they tend to suffer outbreaks which affect a high percentage of passengers on board. Cruise ships do however have strict procedures on place to handle cases of norovirus. Infected persons are normally expected to remain in their cabin and avoid contact with other passengers.
Tip 10: Follow guidance issued by management.