Threats Unseen: Beware of Norovirus During an Emergency

Woman clutches her stomach as if feeling nauseous

Natural disasters are unpredictable. Often, we don’t know when or where they will happen or if we will have to leave our homes because of them. Evacuations for hurricanes and wildfires can force people into emergency shelters, where close quarters, shared spaces, and high-touch surfaces can make it easy for norovirus to spread.Graphic that defines norovirus. Text also in body of article.

Norovirus outbreaks occurred in most evacuation shelters in Butte and Glenn counties, Calif., during the Camp Fire in November 2018. Public-health officials identified 292 people ill with acute gastroenteritis caused by norovirus.(1)

A norovirus outbreak among evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was also reported in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That outbreak might have affected approximately 1,000 evacuees and relief workers.(2)

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Most “stomach bugs” are likely norovirus infections because it’s a relatively common virus. Anyone can catch norovirus from direct contact with an infected person, touching a contaminated surface, or eating contaminated food. It only takes a very small amount of virus particles to make
you sick. The number of particles that could fit on the head of a pin is enough to infect more than 1,000 people.

A person infected with norovirus usually starts to feel ill 12 to 48 hours after they’ve been exposed. The most common symptoms of norovirus infection are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. But it can cause fever, headache, and body aches, too.

Be Prepared

Follow the guidance of local officials when going to an emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will tell you when and where to take shelter and what to bring with you.

Act now to prepare “go kits” for family members. Include everyday personal items you cannot do without and other personal protective supplies, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes and spray, and at least two masks per person age 2 or older in your household.

If your Emergency Action Plan is to go to a shelter in an evacuation, your kit might also include plenty of nonperishable food, mess kits (e.g., reusable cups, plates, bowls utensils). Also, pack paper towels and disposable plastic gloves to clean up after a sick family member. If you are cleaning up after someone vomits or has diarrhea, use a bleach-based cleaner to prevent the spread of norovirus.

Wash Your Hands

Clean hands are essential to health, whether in an emergency or day-to-day life. Handwashing can keep you healthy and prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections, like norovirus, from one person to the next. Unseen woman washing her hands with soap in a sink.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water especially after using the toilet or changing diapers; always before eating, preparing, or handling food; and before giving yourself or someone else medicine. Here’s how:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under the water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in addition to hand washing. But you should not use hand sanitizer as a substitute for washing your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizers aren’t as effective at removing norovirus particles as washing hands with soap and water.

If you start to feel sick, continue to wash your hands often with soap and water and try to avoid direct contact with others. You should not prepare food for others or provide health care while you are sick, and for at least 2 days after symptoms stop.

Learn More

CDC and state and local health departments help to raise awareness among healthcare providers and the public about norovirus and how to prevent it. Learn more about how they work to prevent and stop norovirus outbreaks.

For more suggestions on how to prepare your health for emergencies, visit https://www.cdc.gov/prepyourhealth/.

Resources

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6920a1.htm
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5440a3.htm


Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

3 Reasons Why Handwashing Should Matter to You

Unseen woman washing her hands with soap in a sink.

Most of us are familiar with the parental-like voice in the back of our minds that helps guide our decision-making—asking us questions like, “Have you called your grandmother lately?” For many that voice serves as a gentle, yet constant reminder to wash our hands.

Handwashing with soap and water is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to loved ones. Many diseases are spread by not cleaning your hands properly after touching contaminated objects or surfaces. And although not all germs are bad, illness can occur when harmful germs enter our bodies through the eyes, nose, and mouth. That’s why it is critical to wash hands at key times, such as after a flood or during a flu pandemic, when germs can be passed from person to person and make others sick.

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them, however during a disaster clean, running water may not be available. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Here are three key reasons why you should always care about handwashing:Your hands carry germs you can't see. Wash your hands.

  1. Handwashing can keep children healthy and in school. Handwashing education can reduce the number of young children who get sick and help prevent school absenteeism.
  2. Handwashing can help prevent illness. Getting a yearly flu vaccine is the most important action you can take to protect yourself from flu. Besides getting a flu vaccine, CDC recommends everyday preventive actions including frequent handwashing with soap and water.
  3. Handwashing is easy! Effective handwashing is a practical skill that you can easily learn, teach to others, and practice every day to prepare for an emergency. It takes around 20 seconds, and can be done in five simple steps:
    1. Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap
    2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap
    3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice
    4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
    5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them

Promote Handwashing in Your Community

Global Handwashing Day is celebrated annually on October 15 to promote handwashing with soap as an easy and affordable way to prevent disease in communities around the world. This year’s theme, “Clean Hands—A Recipe for Health,” calls attention to the importance of handwashing at key times, such as before eating or feeding others, and before, during, and after preparing food.

Learn how you can get involved and promote handwashing at home, your child’s school or daycare, and your local community:

Personal Protective Actions You Can Take in a Flu Pandemic

Young woman under the covers in bed blowing her nose.

Every fall and winter the United States experiences epidemics of seasonal influenza (flu). Sometimes a flu pandemic occurs due to a new flu virus that spreads and causes illnesses around the world. We cannot predict when a flu pandemic will occur, but over the past 100 years, we have documented four flu pandemics resulting in close to 1 million deaths in the United States alone. 1Get a flu vaccine! The most important way to prevent the flu in everyone 6 months and older is to get a yearly flu vaccine.

When a flu pandemic happens, it can take up to 6 months before a vaccine against a new flu virus is available. Antiviral drugs can help manage the symptoms of the flu, shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days, and prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. But, there may be a limited supply of these medications during a pandemic so nonpharmaceutical interventions (or NPIs) may be the only prevention tools available during the early stages of a pandemic.

There are things you can do, apart from getting vaccinated and taking medications, to help slow the spread of a flu pandemic. NPIs, also known as “community mitigation measures,” are important because they will be the first line of defense in the absence of a pandemic vaccine. NPIs may be more effective when used early and in a layered approach (i.e., using more than one measure at a time). During the 1918 pandemic, cities that put NPIs in place quickly reported fewer deaths.2,3 NPIs may be used in different settings, including homes, schools, workplaces, and places where people gather (e.g., parks, theaters, and sports arenas).

Personal protective measures to prevent flu at all times

Photo of someone washing their hands in a sink.CDC recommends using some NPIs to prevent seasonal flu and other respiratory infections. To help prevent the flu, you should always:

  • Stay home when sick and away from others as much as possible,
  • Stay away from people who are sick as much as possible,
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue,
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water,
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and
  • Regularly clean surfaces and objects that you use a lot.

Personal protective measures to prevent flu during a pandemic

Many of these NPIs would still be recommended during a pandemic, but some would be reserved for use during a flu pandemic. Depending on the severity of a pandemic, CDC might recommend:

  • Stay home if exposed to a sick household member,
  • Use a face mask when sick and out in crowded community settings, and
  • Implement community measures to reduce exposure to pandemic flu (coordinating school closures, limiting face-to-face contact in workplaces, and postponing or canceling mass gatherings).

CDC is preparing for a flu pandemic

There is always a threat that a flu pandemic will arise, so CDC is taking steps to prepare. In 2017, CDC issued updated community mitigation guidelines to help state and local public health departments and their community partners make plans before the next pandemic happens. Visit www.cdc.gov/npi to access the updated guidelines; plain-language planning guides for the general public and community settings; and additional NPI communication, education, and training materials. You can find more information about seasonal and pandemic flu at www.cdc.gov/flu and at www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic.

Footnotes:

1 Past Pandemics: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/basics/past-pandemics.html

2 Hatchett RJ, Mecher CE, Lipsitch M. Public health interventions and epidemic intensity during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007; 104:7582-7.

3 Markel H, Lipman HB, Navarro JA, et al. Nonpharmaceutical interventions implemented by US cities during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic. JAMA. 2007; 298:644-54.

4 Tips to Stay Healthy Around Your Pet

Father Reading Book With Son And Daughter And Pet Dog At Home

Pets, whether covered in fur, feathers, or scales, are an important part of our lives—most American households own at least one pet. Many people see their pet as a member of the family that brings joy and amusement to their life. But did you know that having a pet can even help improve your health? Having a pet can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. Pets can also encourage you to be active and get outside, and provide opportunities to socialize.

The risk of getting a disease from a pet is low for most people, but some groups are more likely to get sick from the germs spread by pets, and their illness may be more severe. Young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to certain zoonotic infections.While there are many benefits to pet ownership, animals can sometimes carry germs that make us sick. Zoonotic diseases can spread between people and animals—even our pets. In the past decade, we’ve seen outbreaks of illness in people linked to pets such as puppies, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles, lizards, geckos, hedgehogs, and even water frogs.

You might not realize that the everyday activities involved in caring for your pet can result in the spread of germs from pets to people. Handling pet food and toys, cleaning cages, and yes, even kissing your pet, can pass germs from the pet to you. Pets can spread germs even if they look clean and healthy.

All of this may sound scary, but knowing about zoonotic diseases and the simple things you can do to reduce the risk will help you enjoy your pets and stay healthy. Adopt these four simple habits to help you, your family, and your pets stay healthy and happy.

  1. Choose the right pet
    Not all pets are right for all people. In addition to thinking about the pet’s needs, consider who will be around the pet at home. Are there young kids in the house, or maybe a relative over 65? Certain pets, including reptiles, amphibians, and rodents, are not recommended for children 5 years of age and younger, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with weakened immune systems because they’re more likely to get sick. Rodents and cats can carry diseases that cause birth defects, so think about waiting to adopt one of these pets if you or someone in your home is pregnant. Talk to your veterinarian about choosing the right pet.
  2. Keep your pet healthy
    Keeping your pet healthy helps to keep you healthy. Make sure pets get a good diet, fresh water, shelter, and exercise. Regular veterinary care is also important for your pet. Many pets need routine vaccinations, de-worming, and flea and tick control to protect them, and their owners, from certain diseases. Every pet—whether it’s a dog, cat, hamster, ferret, or iguana—should receive life-long veterinary care. If you think your pet might be sick, talk to your veterinarian. Also, remember to include your pets in your emergency preparedness plans so you can keep them safe and healthy in an emergency.
  3. Practice good hygiene
    Washing your hands is one of the best ways to stay healthy around pets and can also protect you against other diseases. Always wash your hands after playing with, feeding, or cleaning up after your pet. Pets can contaminate surfaces in your home with germs—you don’t have to touch your pets to get sick from the germs they might be carrying. Keep your pets away from people food and areas where food and drink are prepared, served, consumed, or stored. Always clean up dog feces (poop) from your yard and public areas to prevent the spread of parasites and other germs to people. If you’re pregnant and have a cat, avoid changing the litter box.
  4. Supervise kids around pets
    Always supervise young children around pets, even trusted family pets. Children, especially those 5 years of age and younger, can be at higher risk for pet-related illnesses because they often touch surfaces that may be contaminated, put objects in their mouths, and are less likely to wash their hands. Children are often the victims of bites and scratches and are more likely to get seriously ill from certain diseases spread from pets. Don’t let kids kiss pets or put their hands or objects in their mouths after playing with pets. Help them to wash their hands after they interact with any animal.

We all love our pets, but it’s important to know the risks that come with any animal contact, especially for people who are more vulnerable to certain diseases. Practicing healthy pet habits can help you enjoy your pets while staying healthy.

You can learn more about pets on CDC’s Healthy Pets Healthy People website, and be sure to check out this feature for more tips on staying healthy around pets.

 

Four Health and Safety Tips for Mass Gatherings

Berlin, Germany - April 5, 2015: People are watching a shop on the amphitheater's terrace at Mauerpark Berlin. The Wall Park is a park in Berlin. Its name dates back to the Berlin Wall , built in 1961 , the border between the then districts of Prenzlauer Berg and Wedding formed at this point.

There is strength in numbers – both in public health and in public safety. The more people who take action to protect themselves, the better prepared a community is for an emergency.

Communities take different forms. At a mass gathering like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or in a public place like the airport, the community includes people you do not know, but whose actions could help prevent a catastrophe or save your life. Here are four things you can do to prepare yourself and protect others when traveling to, and attending, a mass gathering event.

Speech bubble with the words "If you see something, say something."“If You See Something, Say Something®”

Public health and safety are the shared responsibilities of the whole community. Everyone has to play their part to keep our neighborhoods, communities, and the nation safe.

If You See Something, Say Something®” is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement. In other words, if you see something you know should not be there or observe behavior that does not seem quite right, say something.

The “If You See Something, Say Something®” campaign encourages people to follow their intuition and report suspicious activity, but leave it to law enforcement to decide whether an observed activity or behavior merits investigation. To report suspicious activity, contact local law enforcement, and describe in as much detail as possible what you saw, including:

  • Who or what you saw;What is considered suspicious activity? • Unusual items or situations, such as a vehicle that is parked in an odd location, or an unattended package or luggage is unattended • Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc. • Observation or surveillance, where a person is showing particular interest in a public building or government facility including someone extended loitering without explanation, unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building, taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.
  • When you saw it;
  • Where it occurred; and
  • Why it’s suspicious.

If there is an emergency, call 9–1–1.

For more information about the “If You See Something, Say Something®” campaign and to view Public Service Announcement videos, please visit https://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something

Know before you go

Think back to the last time you planned a vacation or weekend getaway, and how much time you spent shopping for airfare and comparing hotel rates. Not surprisingly, most people invest much less effort into gathering safety information about their final destination—and all points in between—before they get there.

  • Do your homework. Research the seasonal health and natural hazards. Monitor the local forecast up until the day you leave, and pack accordingly. Check for S. Department of State travel warnings and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel health notices if traveling overseas.
  • Be informed. Create a Twitter List for your trip that includes local public health, emergency management, and law enforcement agencies. Add the phone number for local law enforcement to your phone.
  • Share the details of your trip. Identify an emergency contact and make sure they have the itinerary for your trip, including your airplane and hotel reservations.
  • Identify an emergency meeting place. Wherever you go—the airport, the hotel, the stadium, etc. — make sure everyone in your group knows where to meet in case you get separated in an emergency.

Create a travel-size emergency kit

Emergency kits come in all shapes and sizes from large 72-hour family supply kits to smaller “go kits” for use in an evacuation. CDC recommends that anyone who travels—from daily commuters to world business travelers—also prepare a travel health kit that includes:

  • First-aid supplies, including a first aid reference card, bandages, antiseptic, aloe, and a thermometer
  • Important papers, including hardcopies of passports, medical insurance cards, and prescriptions
  • Personal needs, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines for diarrhea, allergies, asthma, motion sickness
  • Items specific to your destination, the time of year, and your planned activities, including water purification tablets, sunscreen, and insect repellent

Wash your hands.

When many people are gathered in one place, germs that are highly contagious, like influenza and norovirus, can easily spread person-to-person and on shared surfaces like airplane tray tables, restaurant menus, and restroom door handles. As a result, you or a loved one may bring home more than a lousy t-shirt to your friends and family.

Washing your hands with soap and water is one of (if not the) best ways to protect yourself from getting sick. Follow these five steps to wash your hands the right way every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.

In addition to washing your hands and avoiding close contact with people who are sick, the single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible.

Sources

Norovirus Illness is Messy – Clean Up Right Away

Hand in pink protective glove wiping tiles with rag in the bathroom.

When norovirus strikes in your own home, you can be prepared by having the supplies you need to immediately clean up after a loved one vomits or has diarrhea.

Norovirus is a tiny germ that spreads quickly and easily. It causes vomiting and diarrhea that come on suddenly. A very small amount of norovirus can make you sick. The number of virus particles that fit on the head of a pin is enough to infect over 1,000 people.

You can get norovirus if poop or vomit from an infected person gets into your mouth. You can get it by:

  • Caring for a person who is infected with norovirus and then touching your hands to your mouth
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hands in your mouth

Clean up the splatter!

Vomiting and diarrhea are messy, especially with norovirus. If you get sick from norovirus, drops of vomit or poop might splatter for many feet in all directions.

It’s extremely important to clean up the entire area immediately after you or someone else vomits or has diarrhea. You must be very thorough so you don’t miss any drops of vomit or poop that you can’t see.

If you find yourself in this situation, follow these steps from start to finish to protect other people from getting sick with norovirus:

Step 1 – Put on disposable plastic gloves and a face maskNorovirus spreads when a person gets poop or vomit from an infected person in their mouth.

Step 2 – Wipe up vomit and poop with paper towels and throw them away

Step 3 – Clean all surfaces thoroughly with a bleach cleaner, or make your own solution (¾ cup of bleach plus 1 gallon of water)

Step 4 – Clean all surfaces again with hot water and soap

Step 5 – Remove your gloves, throw them away, and take out the trash

Step 6 – Wash all laundry that may have vomit or poop on them with hot water and soap

Step 7 – Wash your hands with soap and water

Thorough clean up helps prevent norovirus outbreaks

Cleaning-up immediately after someone with norovirus vomits or has diarrhea protects others from getting sick, and prevents norovirus outbreaks. It’s important for everyone to know the clean-up steps and other ways to prevent norovirus.

CDC and state and local health departments help to raise awareness among healthcare providers and the general public about norovirus and how to prevent it. Learn more about how health departments, CDC, and other agencies work to prevent and stop norovirus outbreaks.

To learn more about norovirus, see CDC’s norovirus website and infographics, videos, and other resources, and state and local health department websites.

Safety Tips Every Contact Lens Wearer Should Know

close up of a woman putting contact lens in her eye

Are you one of the 45 million people in the United States who wear contact lenses to correct your vision? Eye infections related to improper contact lens wear and care are serious and can lead to long-lasting damage, but they are often preventable.Six out of seven adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who wear contact lenses report at least one habit that increases their chances of an eye infection, including: • Not visiting an eye doctor at least once a year • Sleeping or napping while wearing contact lenses • Swimming while wearing contact lenses Parents of adolescents can model and encourage healthy contact lens wear and care habits so their children can develop and maintain healthy behaviors as young adults and adults.

This year, in observance of Contact Lens Health Week, you can learn the science behind some of the important contact lens wear and care recommendations:

Replace your contact lens case regularly.

A significant number of people who wear contact lenses report not replacing their lens case regularly. Even when cleaned properly (by rubbing and rinsing the case with disinfecting solution), contact lens cases can become contaminated over time with germs that can cause infections when they come into contact with your eyes.

Don’t sleep or nap in your contact lenses.

Sleeping while wearing contact lenses increases the risk of eye infection by 68 times. Out of every 10,000 people who sleep in their contact lenses overnight, 1820 every year will get an infection of microbial keratitis. This disease causes inflammation of the cornea (the clear dome that covers the colored part of the eye), which, in the worse cases, can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness.

Whitney, Te’, and Ryan tell their personal stories about how their eye infections affected their lives, and how they changed the way they wear and care for contact lenses.
Whitney, Te’, and Ryan tell their personal stories about how their eye infections affected their lives, and how they changed the way they wear and care for contact lenses.

Don’t swim or shower in your contact lenses.

The germs found in water can stick to contact lenses and infect your eyes. Wearing contact lenses can put you at increased risk for Acanthamoeba keratitis, a severe type of eye infection caused by a free-living ameba commonly found in water. These infections can be difficult to treat and extremely painful, and in the worst cases they can cause blindness.

Wash your hands with soap and water before touching your contact lenses.

Germs from your hands can be transferred to your contact lenses and the lens case. Some germs that cause eye infections are found in the water, so it is particularly important that you dry your hands before touching your contact lenses. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them every time you put in and remove your contact lenses.

Visit your eye doctor every year.

Don't overlook healthy contact lens wear and care.Wearing contact lenses increases your risk for eye infections and complications. Therefore, it is important for you to have a yearly eye exam if you wear contact lenses. Sometimes eye doctors may recommend that their patients have more frequent eye exams.

The week of August 21–25, 2017, marks the fourth annual Contact Lens Health Week. This year’s theme, “Healthy habits mean healthy eyes,” will promote healthy contact lens wear and care practices.

Learn more

 Dr. Jennifer Cope is a medical epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at the CDC in the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch. Dr. Cope oversees the free-living ameba program, and supports epidemiologic, laboratory, and communication activities related to free-living ameba infections. She also works with the CDC Healthy Contact Lens Program to raise awareness of contact-lens-related eye infections and the healthy habits that can reduce your chances of getting an eye infection.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Norovirus

Woman Stomach Ache

If you have never been sick with norovirus, chances are you will. In fact, norovirus is so common that most people will get sick with it several times during their life.

The symptoms of norovirus can be miserable and include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea, and stomach pain. Most people who get sick with the virus get better within 1 to 3 days, but it can lead to dehydration or more serious illness, especially in young children and older adults.

Every year, 19 to 21 million people get sick with diarrhea and vomiting caused by norovirus. Norovirus season in the United States peaks in the winter months, although you can get sick at any time during the year.

You can get sick with norovirus by having contact with a sick person, eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, or touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth.

Norovirus spreads quickly, especially in places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships.  A tiny amount of the virus on your food or hands is enough to make you sick.

Currently there’s no vaccine to prevent getting sick from norovirus. However, there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself and others:

  1. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water

Wash your hands carefully with soap and water—

  • especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and
  • always before eating, preparing, or handling food.

Noroviruses can be found in your vomit or stool even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better. So, it is important to continue washing your hands often during this time.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. However, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.

  1. When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for othersnorovirus_a580px

You should not prepare food for others or provide care while you are sick and for at least two days after symptoms stop. This also applies to sick workers in settings such as schools and daycares where they may expose people to norovirus.

  1. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces

After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using an appropriate disinfectant. Learn how to make a bleach solution that can kill norovirus.

  1. Wash fruits and vegetables, and cook seafood thoroughly

Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them. Norovirus can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish. Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.

  1. Wash laundry thoroughly

Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. You should

  • handle soiled items carefully without agitating them,
  • wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled items and wash your hands after, and
  • wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry them.

Following these steps can help protect you and other people from norovirus this season.

Learn More

 

5 Holiday Tips for a Home Safe Home

Closeup photo of family feet in wool socks at fireplace

As the season of togetherness rolls in, regular routines roll out. You do things you don’t normally do: decorating, cooking, hosting guests (and their germs), or playing a pick-up game of football in the backyard. As you channel your inner Julia Child, Aaron Rodgers, or Martha Stewart in preparation for your holiday gatherings, here are five things you should remember:

1.      Don’t let your holidays go up in smoke

Winter is the season to put up a tree, light up the fireplace, or set out candles to decorate your holiday table. Unfortunately, candle fires are four times as likely to happen during the winter holidays. The kitchen is also a source of danger: cooking fires account for 72 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires.

  • Keep alert. Installing a smoke alarm on every level of your home cuts your risk of dying in a fire by half. Make sure to test alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
  • Mind the stove. Keep pot holders, wooden utensils, food packaging, and towels away from the stove. Never leave the stove unattended, even for a few minutes – and turn off the burner if you leave the kitchen.
  • Blow it out. Make sure all candles, smoking materials, and fireplaces are properly extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed. Remember to unplug holiday lights too!

 2.      Beware kitchen nightmaresLet's Talk Turkey

Cutting, chopping, and busy preparations mean you’re paying attention to many things at once. Whether you’re hosting an elaborate dinner party or bringing a dish to the neighborhood potluck, keep these tips in mind:

  • Cut carefully. Use a stable surface and make sure your cutting board doesn’t slip away. Remember to cut away from your body and keep your fingers out of the way of your knife.
  • Little fingers make big disasters. Children can reach up and grab a pot or pan and spill the hot contents over themselves. Use back burners when possible and turn pot handles away from the edge.
  • Be food safety savvy. Don’t invite food poisoning to your feast. Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Use a food thermometer to make sure food cooked in the oven or on the stove top or grill reaches a temperature hot enough to kill germs. In the case of your Thanksgiving turkey, that’s 165°F.

3.      Give the gift of health

Nothing brings down the holiday spirit like a case of stomach flu or a cold. Germs from a cough or sneeze can live on surfaces for longer than 2 hours and spread from person to person in close quarters. Holiday gatherings are breeding grounds for germs like the flu and the common cold. Airports, airplanes, taxis, and rideshare cars are also likely places to pick up a virus.

  • Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Hands off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Get a flu shot. Remind your guests (6 months of age and older) to get vaccinated this year.

 4.      Bundle up!

Twice as many people die every year from extreme cold temperatures as extreme heat. If you’ll be outside, make sure you’re dressed for the weather.

  • Choose your wardrobe wisely. Wear warm winter clothes, plenty of extra layers, and don’t leave areas of the skin exposed to the cold.
  • Avoid. Spot. Treat. Learn to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.

 5.      Avoid the ER

Many holiday activities are things you only do once a year, like running in the annual turkey trot or decorating the outside of your house with holiday lights. Stay out of the emergency room with these tips:

  • Ramp up gradually. Your risk for a cardiac event, such as heart attack, or other injuries can go up when you’re suddenly more active than usual. Don’t just jump into that backyard football game or holiday 5K. Instead, gradually increase your activity level in the weeks leading up to the event.
  • Take your time. Be sure to work slowly when doing chores outside, like shoveling snow or hanging lights, because your body is already working hard to stay warm.

 Use these tips to prepare this season and make home the safest place of all for your family and guests. Here’s to a happy and safe holiday!

Five Things You Might Not Know About Washing Your Hands

Kid washing hands with mother.

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to the people around you. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not cleaning your hands properly. Here are five important things you might not know about washing your hands and why it matters.

  1. Soap is key. Washing your hands with soap removes germs much more effectively than using water alone.[i] The compounds, called surfactants, in soap help remove soil and microbes from your skin. You also tend to scrub your hands more thoroughly when you use soap, which also helps to removes germs.[ii]Make handwashing a habit
  1. It takes longer than you might think. The optimal length of time to wash your hands depends on many factors, including the type and amount of soil on your hands. Evidence suggests that washing your hands for about 15–30 seconds removes more germs than washing for shorter periods.[iii] CDC recommends washing your hands for about 20 seconds, or the time it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice from beginning to end.
  1. It’s all about technique. Make sure to clean the spots on your hands that people miss most frequently. Pay particular attention to the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, and under your nails. Lathering and scrubbing your hands creates friction, which helps to remove dirt, grease, and germs from your skin.
  1. Don’t forget to dry. Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands, so you should dry your hands after washing.[iv] Studies suggest that using a clean towel or letting your hands air dry are the best methods to get your hands dry.[v],[vi],[vii]
  1. Hand sanitizer is an option. If you can’t get to a sink to wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Make sure you use enough to cover all surfaces of your hands. Do not rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer before it is dry.[viii]

Note: Hand sanitizer may not kill all germs, especially if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy,[ix] so it is important to wash hands with soap and water as soon as possible after using hand sanitizer.

Why it Matters

Remember, clean hands save lives. Diarrheal diseases and pneumonia are the top two killers of young children around the world, killing 1.8 million children under the age of five every year.[x] Among young children, handwashing with soap prevents 1 out of every 3 diarrheal illnesses [xi] and 1 out of 5 respiratory infections like pneumonia worldwide.[xii],[xiii]

October 15th is Global Handwashing Day

Handwashing is for everyone…everywhere. Global Handwashing Day is an opportunity to support a global and local culture of handwashing with soap and water, shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country, and raise awareness about the benefits of washing your hands with soap. Although people around the world clean their hands with water, very few use soap to wash their hands because soap and water for handwashing might be less accessible in developing countries.

Get Involved!

References

[i] Burton M, Cobb E, Donachie P, Judah G, Curtis V, Schmidt WP. The effect of handwashing with water or soap on bacterial contamination of hands. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Jan;8(1):97-104.

[ii] Burton M, Cobb E, Donachie P, Judah G, Curtis V, Schmidt WP. The effect of handwashing with water or soap on bacterial contamination of hands. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Jan;8(1):97-104.

[iii] Jensen D, Schaffner D, Danyluk M, Harris L. Efficacy of handwashing duration and drying methods. Int Assn Food Prot. 2012 July.

[iv] Patrick DR, Findon G, Miller TE. Residual moisture determines the level of touch-contact-associated bacterial transfer following hand washing. Epidemiol Infect. 1997 Dec;119(3):319-25.

[v] Gustafson DR, Vetter EA, Larson DR, Ilstrup DM, Maker MD, Thompson RL, Cockerill FR 3rd. Effects of 4 hand-drying methods for removing bacteria from washed hands: a randomized trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 2000 Jul;75(7):705-8.

[vi] Huang C, Ma W, Stack S. The hygienic efficacy of different hand-drying methods: a review of the evidence. Mayo Clin Proc. 2012 Aug;87(8):791-8.

[vii] Jensen D, Schaffner D, Danyluk M, Harris L. Efficacy of handwashing duration and drying methods. Int Assn Food Prot Annual Meeting. 2012 July 22-25.

[viii] Widmer, A. F., Dangel, M., & RN. (2007). Introducing alcohol-based hand rub for hand hygiene: the critical need for training. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, 28(1), 50-54.

[ix] Pickering AJ, Davis J, Boehm AB. Efficacy of alcohol-based hand sanitizer on hands soiled with dirt and cooking oil. J Water Health. 2011 Sep;9(3):429-33.

[x] Liu L, Johnson HL, Cousens S, Perin J, Scott S, Lawn JE, Rudan I, Campbell H, Cibulskis R, Li M, Mathers C, Black RE; Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of WHO and UNICEF. Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality: an updated systematic analysis for 2010 with time trends since 2000. Lancet. 2012 Jun 9;379(9832):2151-61.

[xi] Ejemot RI, Ehiri JE, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;1:CD004265.

[xii] Rabie T and Curtis V. Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systematic review.Trop Med Int Health. 2006 Mar;11(3):258-67.

[xiii] Aiello AE, Coulborn RM, Perez V, Larson EL. Effect of hand hygiene on infectious disease risk in the community setting: a meta-analysis. Am J Public Health. 2008;98(8):1372-81.