The norovirus, or what is commonly known as the stomach bug,is probably the most infuriating illness to treat. Why? Because unlike bacterial infections, norovirus cannot be treated by antibiotics. So, if there's no meds to be taken, how do you treat norovirus? I know it's not exactly what you want to hear right now, but the only way it can be thoroughly treated is by drinking lots and lots of fluids.
Let’s back up: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the norovirus is caught through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes stomach and intestine inflammation, and leads to nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Ugh. Sounds completely awful. And here’s another fact — norovirus is also commonly known as the “winter stomach bug,” so beware people.
The difference between the norovirus and influenza is that vaccines and anti-viral drugs can help to fight off influenza (which is known as the flu — symptoms including fever, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, coughing and fatigue), but not norovirus — unfortunately, that virus can only be lived out through lots of liquids. Since norovirus causes you to throw up, the losing all those fluids will leave you dehydrated, which is why it is so crucial to keep hydrated.
Now here’s the unlucky news. Just like influenza, a person can catch norovirus more than once in their life. The CDC says that “being infected by one type of norovirus may not protect you against other types.” Norovirus is commonly caught by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated, touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated, and having contact with someone who is infected. A person will be contagious of norovirus while they are sick, and even a few days after you recover from the illness.
However, here’s the lucky news: There are a few lifestyle changes you can make to ensure that you are staying safely away from norovirus this winter. The first is the most common — wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom. Always wash your hands while preparing, eating, or handling any type of foods that you consume. Sure you can carry a hand sanitizer on you, but it isn’t a full proof substitute from thoroughly washing your hands. Make sure to always disinfect and clean surfaces (with bleach, if possible), and make sure that anyone who was sick with norovirus keeps a distance from others (even if they want to take care of people right after being sick). Give them at least a week.
OK, so maybe a lot of this sounds dramatic, and we are going to turn into some crazy germphobes over the next few months. But after looking at the horrific side effects that come with this nasty viral disease, I have a feeling it will be well worth it.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated from its original version.