At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people spent a lot of time wiping down their groceries with bleach solution and sanitizing doorknobs. It turns out that all that effort was probably unnecessary. That’s because the virus that causes COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through the air we breathe.
Washing hands carefully is not a waste of time, though. With norovirus on the rampage, meticulous hand hygiene is essential.
Norovirus is the leading cause of “stomach flu” or “food poisoning.” It’s also referred to as cruise ship virus or winter vomiting disease. That is a clue to the symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. This list does not do justice to the experience.
A few readers share their stories. C writes: “I lived in the Caribbean with my office right on the harbor. One day I bought a salad from a fast food place where a lot of the cruise ship crew ate. The next day, I thought I was going to die. I certainly wished I would because I was unbelievably miserable.
“I literally could not even drink water the first day because it would trigger vomiting and dry heaves, coming out all ends. The second day, I could suck on ice chips, and the third day I could take small sips of ginger ale. I was incredibly weak so I could barely stand up. It was the most excruciating stomach pain I’ve ever had in my life.”
D relates: “I’m currently recovering from what is probably norovirus. I don’t know where I caught it but I had been to the pharmacy, chiropractor and grocery store. Intestinal tsunami is a perfect description for the abdominal pain and the projectile vomiting.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “People with norovirus illness shed billions of virus particles in their stool and vomit and can easily infect others. You are contagious from the moment you begin feeling sick and for the first few days after you recover ... Norovirus can stay on objects and surfaces and still infect people for days or weeks. Norovirus can survive some disinfectants, making it hard to get rid of.”
There is no cure for norovirus. The only treatment is hydration. Some people become so dehydrated that they need intravenous fluids.
That’s why prevention is the most effective strategy during an outbreak. That means being very careful about what you put in your mouth. Food or beverages that are touched by anyone who also handles money could easily be contaminated.
Public restrooms are a potential source of infection. That is why scrupulous hand washing is critical. Hand sanitizer is not a substitute, unless it follows at least 20 to 30 seconds of scrubbing with soap and water.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.