5 On Your Side

Clean is key to controlling spread of 'stomach flu'

Posted April 12

While flu season is going strong across North Carolina, the Norovirus is out there as well. It's a common and nasty stomach bug, many people mistake for the flu.

Every year, up to 21 million Americans get sick from with the bug, which spreads easily in confined spaces.

Outbreaks have been reported on cruise ships and in hospitals, and they have forced schools and colleges all across the country to temporarily close.

Dr. Orly Avitzur said, “(It is) often mistakenly called the stomach flu but (it is) not related to influenza. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains and occasionally fever.”

Norovirus spreads through fecal matter, contaminated food or coming into contact with someone who is sick with the virus.

“If you are close to someone who is vomiting, you may get sick through aerosolized particles," Avitzur said. "If that happens, you’ll probably see symptoms within 12 to 48 hours.”

The best way to avoid contracting or spreading Norovirus is to wash hands with soap and hot water for at least 30 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling food. Consumer Reports says hand sanitizers alone do not work.

Once the virus is in the home, disinfect contaminated surfaces with 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water. Wash linens, towels and clothes that might have been contaminated.

If you get sick, Consumer Reports recommends staying home so that you don't spread it to others. It usually runs its course in 1 to 3 days.

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