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Norovirus: Enough To Make Your stomach Turn…

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A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I left on a much needed vacation. What should have been a pleasant week long cruise through the Bahama’s ended up being 72 hours of our own personal hell.

While we didn’t have anything near the experience of the passengers on the Carnival Triumph, it was still not something we had planned for.

The first two days of the cruise went off without a hitch, we set sail on the high seas and spent them like we do every time we cruise on a new ship, learning to navigate around the ship and what every nook and cranny holds.

And then at the end of day 2 came the lobster dinner.

(It could have been anything really, but we share everything and I never got sick, everything that is except the lobster)

Day three started early and abruptly, at 5:00 am my wife jumped out of bed and made a break for the restroom; and it only got worse from there.

My wife had  a stomach surgery recently that left her much more prone to dehydration than a normal person, and I always worry about how much water she has drank.

So needless to say after 12 hours of her not being able to even keep down ice chips, I was a little perturbed.

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I found my way to the medical center to see if they had any  pepto bismol or anything the help settle her stomach.

As soon as I mentioned an upset stomach the nurse became very serious and asked me what the symptoms were.

After explaining them she said that I needed to get her down there right away, that they had even waived the $90.00 exam fee.

One look at the rapidly filling waiting room showed why.

It wasn’t just us, there were over 30 people guest and crew alike  with the same sickly green skin tone that my wife had taken on.

I had to all but drag her down to the sick bay, but I am glad I did, they gave her a shot for nausea and vomiting and a special diet that came right along with a 24 hour quarantine in our cabin to avoid further contamination of other passengers.

I however was told that I was free to move about the ship… which I still think is a little odd when the person I share a bed with had a possibly infectious disease.

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The nurse and the doctor wouldn’t tell me what it was that had affected so many people, but when we returned to our room  there was a letter waiting for us explaining that they believed  she had been infected with the Norovirus or as she not so affectionately called it, the plague.

I didn’t have internet access to look it up until I got home, but this is what I have found out about it since then:

The Norovirus  commonly known as the “stomach flu” is one of the most infectious viruses around. It takes fewer than 20 virus particles to infect someone, so each droplet of vomit has enough virus to infect over 100,000 people. In the United States, norovirus causes 21 million illnesses annually, requiring 70,000 hospitalizations, of which 800 result in death.

The viruses are transmitted by fecally-contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. Noroviruses are the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, and affect people of all ages.

But being the most common cause doesn’t make it any less dangerous…

Surviving a crisis situation is difficult enough without getting sick. In a harsh environment, good health is critical, so keeping yourself in good shape can save your life.

I saw first hand just how quickly some one can become critically dehydrated even with proper medical equipment so close by, imagine how bad it will be when there are no doctors around!

Why is the Norovirus is so contagious?

  1. It’s unusually hardy. Norovisus is known to survive up to 12 hours on clean hard surfaces like a countertop, and up to 12 days on fabrics like carpets and upholstery.
  2. It has an extremely high rate of infection. It only takes a few viruses to make a person sick.
  3. It resists disinfectants. Common household cleaners and alcohol-based hand sanitizers have little effect on the virus. The exception is bleach, which does kill the virus.
  4. It is easily aerosolized. Infected persons vomit, then cough or sneeze, and the virus drifts around in the air, infecting those who breathe it.

Symptoms of Norovirus

  1. Sudden onset of nausea and vomiting. Projectile vomiting is characteristic.
  2. Watery diarrhea.
  3. Some people also have fever, headaches, chills, severe fatigue, and stomach cramps.

The primary complication is dehydration. Symptoms typically last from one to three days.

How to prevent the infection and spread of the Norovirus

Practice proper hand hygiene

Wash your hands carefully with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. These alcohol-based products can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.

Here is the catch, your standard bottle of Purell isn’t going to cut it. Most of these only have a 62% alcohol content which has been found to be ineffected against the Norovirus. You need something a bit stronger…

Something like this:
hand sanitizer

(Be sure to look at the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” for a few other options)

Take care in the kitchen

Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.

Do not prepare food while infected

People with Norovirus illness should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces

After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, you can use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

Wash laundry thoroughly

Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus. If available, wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling. The items should be washed with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.

 

How to avoid contamination from an infected person:

  1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. This is critical. Disinfectants and hand sanitizers have little effect — you have to wash the virus off your hands with plenty of running water. Use plain soap and lots of rubbing and rinsing. This is far and away the most effective way to clean the virus off your hands.
  2. Wear a mask. It might seem goofy, but it’s very effective.
  3. Isolate the patient. If possible, don’t let the sick person share a room or bathroom with others.
  4. Do not share food or utensils.

Treating Norovirus

Noroviruses don’t respond to antibiotics, so save them for bacterial infections. Antiviral drugs are also ineffective. For otherwise healthy patients the treatment is just to provide comfort until it passes — keep warm, rested, and calm. Prevent dehydration with plenty of bland fluids like water and diluted broth, with a little mineral salt to replace electrolytes. Avoid sugary drinks, which aggravate diarrhea, as well as caffeine and alcohol, which are diuretics.

If you get infected and can get to a doctor, after watching my wife with it, I want to urge you to head there right away.

There is no reason to suffer through it if you don’t have to.

Want more tips? Check out these related articles from our site:

25 Home Remedies for Cold and Flu | Survival Tips

5 Natural Ways to Soothe Hay Fever

7 Natural Ways to Soothe a Respiratory Infection

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Tzanchan

    March 21, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    Hey good tips, how about immodium to treat the symptoms? Helpful or at least not harmful?

    • Joe

      March 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM

      I forgot to put that in there, they did give her immodium after the nausea shot! definitely a good thing to have, once you can keep anything down that is.

  2. Tzanchan

    March 21, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    PS be self reliant, try this: Diluted chlorine bleach (5 to 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water) may be used to clean solid surfaces. I’d use it on hands for a week, not exactly good for soft skin, but it could be life or death….that’s why its good to save some of those old bleach bottles to repurpose….

  3. A

    March 21, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    Why ever would a “prepper” go on a cruise?

    You are stranded in an unfamiliar environment with no control and no escape unless your swimming skills are extraordinary. You are surrounded by underpaid exploited employees of a highly competitive profit-driven corporation. As altruistic and service oriented as these people have proven to be during recent crises, they cannot really help you and hundreds of others very much.

    As for eating seafood? Unless the lobster was caught off the deck of your cruise ship, you have no idea where it came from or the conditions of its existence from ocean to your plate.

    Sanitation on cruise line ships is famous for creating norovirus events. Breakdowns in power systems and their backups is common. Most of these ships are not U.S. registered or regulated. They are supplied and maintained on the cheap to maximize profits and with large numbers of passangers on non-stop cruise schedules.

    The most recent publicized stranding of a cruise ship due to power problems, happened in a port when the difficulty struck. Even so in such a case, you would likely know no one there, have limited language skills and probably wouldn’t have sufficient funds available to get yourself home which would leave you at the mercy of local bankers. Again there is the issue of the local food being a health issue especially if you are immune compromised as was your wife.

    Hope your wife has recovered and that you find a safer more comfortable vacation next time.

  4. Zen

    March 21, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    No one should travel without activated charcoal capsules, you can get them in the health food store. It will absorb what ever toxin is in your body, especially when you can’t identify it. It is particularly good for food poisoning. This should also be in your prepper supplies.
    You can also get activated charcoal in large containers loose, but some people find it harder to take that way. As far as I am concerned you can’t really overdose. I usually start with two and take more in an hour if not feeling better. You might throw it up if vomiting is occuring but take again till you can keep it down. Zen NMD

  5. Ralph

    March 21, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    In 41 years of medicine I have found common sense does not always prevail when treating common conditions like severe vomiting or diarrhea. To prevent dehydration with anyone especially a child use warm (body temperature) bland, clear fluids. At first try a few drops to a teaspoon of (clean) water. Slowly increase as comfortably tolerated. You can help someone drink quarts of water per day by literally dripping it into them. Mineral salt (like “Real Salt”) use a pinch of it per quart of water. It is a good replacement for folks with severe diarrhea who are losing sodium. Vomiting causes the loss of potassium and this can be dangerous especially for the very young, aged or those with serious medical conditions. Salt substitute (have in your first aid kit) is potassium salt and a pinch to each quart of water can help when severe vomiting continues for more than 12 hours. There are nutraceutical preventives and treatment for viral infections though they must be taken about 3 days prior to exposure to the virus and can be taken with diarrhea symptoms to shorten the disease course. Vomiting makes it difficult to smell much less take anything.

  6. pfwag

    March 21, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Good tips but are you going to spray your table food with a clorox solution? However, it is a proven fact that most subsequent infections come off your hands so keep those routinely sanitized, especially on a cruise ship with thousands of people touching everything.

    Like all viruses, norovirus is hard to kill once in the body and it has multiplied, however, antivirals will actually help keep you from being initially infected as they help the body destroy the few infecting virus before they start multiplying.

    The most popular one, Tamiflu, is actually an anti-viral extract from the star anise plant. It is very effective to keep one from being infected by H5N1 if taken 30 days BEFORE being exposed but is basically useless after being infected. I don’t know if that applies to a norovirus. Regardless, some other natural anti-virals are echinacea,elderberry (get the Sambucol brand), and (real) black licorice. All have anti-viral compounds. Then there is resvatrol which is found in dark wines and grapes. There are probably a few more around but it has been a decade or so since I last researched the issue.

    My wife, a school teacher who also gets colds and flus real easy and has them long and bad, takes those routinely when “stuff” is going around. She also takes a lot of Vitamin D. 1,000 IUs normally and 10,000 twice a day when infected. It all seems to help from keeping her from getting infected and then notably shortening the duration when infected. BTW, don’t take too much black licorice for too long of an extended period.

    The only other proven thing one can take to kill virus infecting the body is “colloidal” silver. It will stop a stomache flu in its tracks. However, there is a lot of junk out there so caveat emptor. The two brands we use are Sovereign Silver and Mesosilver. Technically, the former is an ionic silver and the later is an actual colloidal silver.

    While H5N1, Bird Flu, turned out to be fairly non-contagious and hard to catch, it still could mutate to be a real and contagious very deadly killer. I think it still kills about 50% of those that catch it. There is also a new strain of SARS that has just recently broken out that is extremly deadly and appears to be contagious.

    Get H5N1, SARS, the bad strain of E-Coli, or the very nasty hospital staph infection that is going around and there is NOTHING modern medicine can actually do to “cure” you.

    Silver is a proven anti-pathogen and I have about 500 medical reports on the issue, including in vivo and in vitro test reports. Nobody really knows how it works and from my studies over the last 15 years I couldn’t say if ionic or colloidal works better. My guess is that they both work but probably in different ways. BTW, most “colloidal silver,” including the one you can make yourself for emergency use, is 98% or so ionic silver with the balance being actual colloidal silver and real collidal silver (and there are very few actual sources) is about 5% actual colloidal silver with the balance being ionic silver. The main difference is that ionic silver is a charged silver particle and colloidal silver is not.

    Probably 99% or so of the “colloidal” silver in health food stores and on the internet is actually ionic silver. There’s also a few “silver protiens” around but they typically have very large particle sizes.

    Finally, you can not get agryia from taking colloidal silver if the particle sizes are smaller than a red blood cell (6-8 micrometers) as they will pass through the small capillaries in your skin. Larger particles can get stuck which then results in agryia – which doesn’t do any real harm other than turning one a permanent shade of bluish-gray. So unless you are into the Goth scene, don’t buy any collidal silver that doesn’t state the maximum particle size unless it is an emergency because it is better to be bluish than dead.

  7. pfwag

    March 21, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Typo correction: real collidal silver (and there are very few actual sources) is about 95% actual colloidal silver with the balance being ionic silver.

  8. TpC

    March 21, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    When using a helping verb (HAS), you would say ‘has drunk’, not ‘has drank’.
    English is still our primary official language of America – let’s be good to it.

    • ChimpImp

      March 21, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Are you sure English is our primary language? I don’t think Americans speak English anymore. Proper Englsh is not valued in the U. S. Alleged college students working on their masters degree can’t spell or use proper grammar. The worst part is people no longer see any need to use proper grammar.

    • John

      March 21, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      Oh, I can’t resist. I’m frome the southwest, and we have a somewhat different vocabulary if you haven’t noticed. But this reminds me of a joke: An Oklahoma State University student named Bubba (of course) went down to Baylor in Waco one weekend. He wanted to tour the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. Not being familiar with the area, he stopped a Baylor student and asked “Hey pardner, can you tell me where the Ranger Hall of Fame is at?” The Baylor student replied that it was incorrect english to end a preposition with a participle. Bubba replied ” Oh, well then, can you tell me where the Museum is at, A Hole?”

      • John

        March 21, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        Did you go to Baylor, too?

  9. Chuck

    March 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    The most powerful antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal substance that kills super bugs as well is grapefruit seed extract. Nutribiotic Grapefruit seed extract from http://www.allhealthtrends.com in capsule form. Take six 250mg caps per day to get over colds and flu. Then two a day to stay well. I’ve used it for five years now and don’t get sick. Also, Dr. Schulz product Intestinal number 2 has bentonite clay and absorbs toxins and rapidly stops the runs too. Find it at http://www.herbdoc.com good to have the capsules when you travel as well as at home.

  10. Mynickelsworth

    March 21, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    What about food grade Hydrogen Peroxide? Would it be useful for cleaning hands and counter tops?
    It comes at 35% strength and must be diluted 11-1 with distilled water to get the normal 3% solution.

  11. jann

    March 21, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    The above suggestions are good but dont forget oil of oregano. Its an extremely potent antiviral/antibacterial/antifungal/antibiotic. Outperforms pharmacy drugs and it far safer

    • rev. dave

      March 21, 2013 at 8:15 PM

      I’ve used Mediterranean oregano oil for years, and it quickly ends any kind of belly bug I get – and I get a lot of them as I eat a lot of take-out food. It also cures athlete’s foot very quickly – but burns like hot hell too if the athlete’s foot is active and open. It’ll also cure jock-itch – but I don’t recommend you try that at all unless you are willing to trade the rash for hot hell in your shorts for an hour or so.

      Colloidal silver works for all of it too – it’s slower, but tastes like water and doesn’t burn at all.

    • Vic

      March 22, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      Oil of Oregano was recently suggested to me as well, I will have to try that.

  12. debbie

    March 21, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    Just took an infection control class at the hospital I work at. While alcohol based hand sani works to kill many viruses, it does not work at all for Norovirus. The molecules have to be washed off the hands. It can be removed by washing your hands well with soap and water and rinsing the virus down the drain. Blessings.

  13. Chuck

    March 22, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    If it is available, Gatorade is a good solution for rehydrating. I dilute it 1:1 with water as it has too much sugar in it for my taste. You may be able to drink it straight, I know a lot of people do. You can make your own by adding potassium salt and sodium salt and sugar to water, but Gatorade is ready-made and in this country universally available. Even cruise ships should have some because some drink it in place of soda. Sodium citrate is good for an upset stomach. You can buy it behind the pharma counter. Or you can use Seven-up which is a weak solution of sodium citrate. And when I was a kid my parents used to give me ginger ale if I had an upset stomach and diarrhea. Of course so many years ago, it was real ginger ale and not the artificial stuff that is sold as ginger ale. You can buy the real stuff in natural food stores and other small off brand stores. The big name stuff is not real ginger ale. It is carbonated water with ginger flavoring and high fructose corn syrup.

    • Joe

      March 22, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      thanks for the tip chuck
      That does work great for most people, and was suggested by the doctors on board, unfortunately something in gatorade and powerade makes my wife sick to her stomach on the best of days.

  14. QuestionMark

    March 22, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    No! You are all wrong. You should drink a quart of colloidal silver, nutribiotic grapefruit seed, hydrogen peroxide, oil of oregano, alcohol, tumeric and cinnamon. Then say voodoo chants for one hour. Guaranteed to cure anything…

  15. gena

    March 23, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    I’m reading this about an hour after trying to convince a facebook friend to stay home from work today since she says she is sure she has the flu. I tried to convince her that not only would she feel better, she would not infect all her coworkers, but she said the company she works for expects the employees to go to work even if sick, if they can drag themselves to work. Well, if the whole office is out sick in a few days, she should know why. Maybe she caught it from another sick employee who felt they were too essential to stay home with the flu.
    I get ticked when I have coworkers show up sick but what really ticks me off are the few occasions I have to go to the doctor and the doctor pretty obviously has the flu and still went to work and is likely exposing all his/her patients to it.

  16. Arlene Johnson

    May 14, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    Question Mark should state what amount of hydrogen peroxide to ingest. Too much is fatal.

  17. Mimi

    February 4, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    Very good info and thanks for writing it.

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