I swear, having a child in school is like some sort of evil cosmic countdown clock to when the puking and pooping will begin throughout your household. Commonly called "the stomach flu", Norovirus is the highly-contagious, miserable disease of gastric upset. You may have heard it referred to "the cruise ship bug" or more aptly "hell on earth". If you've ever had food poisoning or an awful bout of diarrhea, you've probably had Norovirus. And if you've ever experienced it, then knowing how to prevent Norovirus is probably at the forefront of your mind right about now. Because once you know one contaminated person, be they tiny or adult-sized, many more are sure to follow.
Norovirus is a tricky virus to prevent and eliminate, but there are ways to stop the spread of the nasty bug. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most important factor in the prevention of norovirus is to minimize exposure risk. As per their guidelines, the virus can live in your gut for up to two weeks even after you feel better, so it's important to maintain proper hand hygiene at all times, even after the symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) have passed. Sanitizer is OK, but nothing beats the power of good, old fashioned hand-washing. Clean hands is the first line of defense. Next, clean all of your surfaces with a product that is bleach-based. As per the CDC, wash all of your clothing and dry at a high temperature, and avoid cooking if you've been exposed — you want to keep those germs to yourself.
My house came down with Norovirus earlier this year. My son, who is normally quite capable of making it to the toilet to puke his guts out was just walking around his room after eating a very large breakfast (emphasis for visual reference) when suddenly, a volcano erupted from his throat and onto the bedroom floor. It was Exorcist-level vomiting. His face after being taken by surprise by the sudden return of his eggs and banana toast? Priceless.
Unfortunately, that wasn't it for him. Not twenty minutes after he emptied his stomach of all available contents, his intestines got the same message: evacuate now. Thankfully, that time he made it to the bathroom. But, being the 9-year-old boy that he is, he narrated the entire experience for me and my husband. It went mostly like this: "My butthole is on fire." And, "It smells like rotting sushi and sadness in here." And my personal favorite, "I can't wait to tell my friends about this." Wait. Hold up. Why are kids so gross?
After cleaning the Pollocked toilet and assisting in the cleanup of the bedroom, containing and preventing Norovirus has become a bit of an obsession.
The UK's National Health Service (NIH) has some helpful guidelines to prevent the spread of Norovirus. First, they mention that you really must stay home for 48 hours after you stop vomiting and having other gastric upset. School and work can wait, much as that can really cause problems both as a worker and as a parent, unless you want to infect your friends and colleagues, as well.
Next, wash your hands constantly. Use water that's as hot as you can stand to use, while washing for 20 seconds with antibacterial soap. Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Now it's time to disinfect: Clean all your surfaces with bleach-based products, and all of your contaminated linens and clothing immediately. Dry on high heat to make sure you kill the virus.
The military is especially vigilant against Norovirus. As per an article on CNN, they note that they keep foods being prepared away from those who have been or are sick. Thoroughly wash all your vegetables and cook your meats to the proper temperature, notes the CDC, and avoid communal food bowls like peanuts and popcorn set out at bars. Those are hotbeds for Norovirus. Remember, even if you're washing your hands, that doesn't mean other people are washing theirs.
If you follow all these guidelines, you're on the right path, but remember, there's no perfect prevention. You can only do your best. And if you see someone looking a bit green about the gills, run for the hills.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.