How an infectious disease doctor avoids stomach bugs

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of norovirus germs.
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  • Norovirus is extremely contagious and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • From November to April, most virus outbreaks occur in the United States.
  • Washing your hands can help prevent the spread of the virus.

An infectious disease doctor told Insider how she protected herself from norovirus as outbreaks occurred in the United States.

Most norovirus outbreaks in the United States occur between November and April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. There were 254 outbreaks of infection between Aug. 1, 2022, and Feb. 12, 2023, which is in the same range as winter outbreaks during the 2012-2020 season, according to the CDC.

Norovirus is a stomach bug that causes vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain and for the most part goes away on its own within three days. But it causes about 900 deaths a year, mostly among people age 65 and older, the CDC said.

Norovirus is extremely contagious and spreads mainly through food and water contaminated by a sick person. It’s especially likely to spread in tight spaces such as cruise ships or college dorms, said Dr. Purvi S. Parikh, an infectious disease physician at NY Langone.

Here are four tips from Dr. Parikh to avoid getting infected with the virus.

Regular hand washing is essential to avoid catch norovirus

“What we recommend is frequent hand washing. This is key to preventing the spread of norovirus,” Dr Parikh said.

Washing your hands with soap and water is the “gold standard” way to get rid of norovirus germs because friction helps kill more virus particles, but a hand sanitizer is better than none if it’s the only option, she said.

Dr. Parikh wears gloves when treating patients, but always washes his hands throughout the day, especially between patients, and before and after eating.

When she comes home from work, she washes her hands again.

Make sure food is clean before eating

Dr Parikh said many norovirus transmissions occur through food.

The CDC said norovirus spreads when a person accidentally gets particles of poop or vomit from an infected person into their mouth, often through contaminated food or water.

Along with washing hands before and after eating, she said it’s important to clean the surfaces where food is prepared.

It’s also important to make sure the food itself is germ-free.

“If there are any like salads or fruit or cold cuts, I make sure they are well rinsed and clean before consuming them,” she said. Parikh also makes sure that all his food is well cooked.

The CDC said it can also be transmitted if foods are grown or harvested with contaminated water, such as oysters or fruits and vegetables. Properly cooking oysters and other shellfish is important because the virus is relatively heat resistant and can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the agency said.

Self-isolate if you have symptoms of norovirus

If someone does catch the virus, it’s important that they self-isolate, Dr Parikh said.

People with symptoms should stay home and not go to work or socialize due to the highly contagious nature of norovirus.

This is especially true for those who live in close quarters, such as on cruise ships or in college dorms.

She said: “These kinds of situations you need to be even more vigilant about spreading. You should be even more careful with hand washing, wiping and disinfecting surfaces.”

Masks do not protect against norovirus

As the virus is not airborne, Dr Parikh said masks are not as effective for norovirus as they are for COVID or the flu.

She said: “It’s mainly a stomach bug, which is a bit different from other respiratory viruses.”

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