How To Prevent Catching Norovirus This Winter

With 2017 already off to a chaotic start, one tricky adversary has flown relatively under the radar: the annual resurgence of norovirus, otherwise known as the stomach flu. As strains usually mutate and worsen from year to year, it is relatively unsurprising that reports of norovirus in the U.S. are already making the rounds. But when it comes to how to prevent catching norovirus — an ailment characterized by symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and headache that may last one to three days — the solutions aren't as simple as they would be with other common illnesses, because norovirus is resilient AF.

The first key to preventing norovirus is understanding how it spreads. According to the CDC, norovirus is highly contagious, and can be spread by consuming food that has come into contact with it, by touching an object that came into contact and then touching your mouth, or having personal contact with someone who has norovirus. The real kicker? Even after someone's symptoms abate, norovirus can remain contagious in their stool for over two weeks. It's unsurprising, then, that there are often breakouts in daycares, nursing homes, and facilities serving food.

So how can you keep yourself safe from having your own vomit-palooza, courtesy of norovirus? Here are a few tips to get you through the winter.

Wash Your Hands (Obviously)

While you should always practice good hygiene, the CDC emphasizes that norovirus remains contagious in the stool of hosts for potentially over two weeks — so once their symptoms fade, the risk certainly does not. Hand sanitizers should not be used as a replacement for hand-washing, either. The CDC's norovirus expect Dr. Aron Hall told NBC that norovirus is "resistant to many common disinfectants," including alcohol. Which brings us to our next preventative measure ...

Take Special Care In Cleaning Surfaces And Items

As it is so resistant to disinfectants like common cleaning supplies, the CDC website recommends sterilizing surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution with a strength between five and 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water, or 1000–5000 ppm. Laundry should be handled with gloves, washed hot and on the longest possible cycle, and dried. Dishes handled by the sick also will not be disinfected using soap and water alone, and should be treated with bleach before being added to the rinse cycle.

Prevent Exposure In The First Place

The CDC recommends that people with norovirus do not return to their activities outside of the home for two days after they start feeling better, to avoid further contagion. They should not prepare food for others, and maintain frequent hand washing. They should remain vigilant of the fact that norovirus contagions can last in the body for up to two weeks.

For more information on norovirus, visit the CDC's website here.