Friday, January 25, 2013

Fend off the Dreaded Norovirus

We all heard about the impending flu season and how difficult it would be, but most of us missed the memo about the norovirus--until it showed up at our door. Norovirus is commonly called the "stomach flu," and reported cases are up 58% nationwide from last year.

How has this one virus wreaked so much havoc? It's incredibly contagious. That's why it's spread from Australia to the USA and everywhere in between in the last month.

According to the CDC, a new strain of norovirus appeared this year, and that's why so many people are becoming infected. This new strain was first detected last March in Australia and has caused outbreaks in many countries. Norovirus mutates rapidly, with new strains showing up every two to three years.

The virus causes vomiting and diarrhea. The elderly and young children are the most susceptible to it, and it can be transmitted from contaminated surfaces, person-to-person, or even through contaminated water.

What's the best defense? Wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom and before eating, and wipe any contaminated surfaces with a disinfecting solution. It's also helpful to isolate contaminated people so they don't have a chance to spread the virus.

What does this mean for your babysitting co-op? Don't drop your child off at someone else's house if she has any norovirus symptoms (stomach pains, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting). Even if all the kids look healthy, be vigilant about having them wash their hands, and it wouldn't hurt to disinfect the toys and tabletops after your shift is over.

Soon spring will be hear, and we won't hear about the norovirus for a while. Let's hope!

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