Norovirus: Most Common Cause of Food borne Illness
It’s spring break season! If you are planning on taking cruise this spring, consider the risks before hopping aboard. One risk is a norovirus outbreak, a highly contagious virus commonly associated with cruises and number one cause of food borne illness in the US.
Although 2019 just began, the CDC has already tracked four outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness. The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) tracks outbreaks on cruises by requiring cruise ships to log and report how many passengers and crew members are experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal illness. The CDC does not always report the cause of the
outbreaks, but a likely culprit is the norovirus.
Norovirus is the most common cause of food borne illness in part because norovirus is durable and spreads rapidly. Requiring only a miniscule amount of virus particles to infect a person, the virus easily contaminates food and water. Eating food contaminated with the norovirus is the easiest way for the virus to spread. According to the CDC, the norovirus is “the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the US”.
When an infected person touches food, tiny particles of feces and/or vomit containing the norovirus can contaminate the food. Norovirus can also contaminate food if the item is set on a contaminated surface. Food grown with contaminated water can also cause the norovirus, but 70 percent of reported outbreaks from contaminated food are caused by infected food workers, the CDC reports.
Additionally, you can get the norovirus by putting your fingers in your mouth after touching contaminated surfaces or having direct contact (i.e. sharing eating utensils or food) with someone infected with the norovirus. Proper handwashing is crucial to prevent this most common cause of food borne Illness!
Norovirus causes acute gastroenteritis. Symptoms of the norovirus include extreme feelings of illness with multiple episodes of diarrhea and/or vomiting within a day. The illness usually ends within 1 to 3 days. Adequate hydration is crucial during the time of the illness and recovery, for it is very easy to become dehydrated during the illness.