Norovirus is the most common gastric viral infection. It has many names but its effects to the body are the same.
What is norovirus?
Common Names For Norovirus:
Norwalk like virus (NLV) (given the name from an outbreak in Norwalk Ohio in 1968).
Small round structured virus (SRSV).
Winter Vomiting Disease.
Gastric Flu (not connected to the flu virus in any way).
Stomach flu (not connected to the flu virus in any way).
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Norovirus is a viral infection, not a bacterial infection. (VIRUS)
Symptoms of Norovirus:
The effects of Norovirus are not life threatening but very unpleasant. the main symptoms are projectile/explosive vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and in some cases stomach cramps, fever, and muscle pain. Symptoms last for between 24-60 hours.
Any illness involving vomiting and diarrhea with these symptoms may be caused by Norovirus or by a bacteria. Hence, viral gastroenteritis or bacterial gastroenteritis. Bacterial gastroenteritis is not contagious. What ever your environment, always assume its a viral infection until stool samples have been tested to confirm the nature of the infection.
Transmission of Norovirus:
The only way to catch Norovirus is through the faecal-oral route (turd to tongue transmission). This means you have to "swallow" the viral particles contained in feces or vomit of someone who has the virus. “Swallow” means to ingest it into your gastro-intestinal system, which can be through your mouth or nose, or potentially (but not likely) by rubbing your eyes. You cannot breathe it in. It is possible, however, for someone to vomit near or beside you, and the aerosol "spray" droplets come up and touch your eyes, nose or mouth these are then swallowed and then you are infected. These aerosol droplets which become airborne can also fall onto surfaces including clothing. Once touched the particles then are on your hands and through eating or touching your mouth, nose or possibly eyes, they can be ingested and infect you. The other side of the coin at this stage is that, once on the hands everything you touch may then become contaminated with particles for others to pick up. This is why regular hand washing is such an important part of infection control.
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FACT: A sickness episode can infect 50-70% of all persons within 4 meter radius through aerosol droplets.
FACT:One vomit contains in excess of 30,000,000 viral particles. Ingestion of as few as 10 and 100 viral particles may be enough to cause infection.
When is Norovirus contagious?
Once the virus has been ingested and is incubating (taking over the cells), it is possible to shed the virus through stools, without yet showing symptoms. This is one reason why the virus is so highly contagious. People don’t know they have the virus and spread it to others through poor hygiene (not washing their hands after defecating, and then touching others or touching surfaces.)
People are also contagious for at least 24 hours after the symptoms disappear. There have been virus particles found in the stool samples 48hrs after the symptoms have passed, however it is not known whether enough viral particles are secreted in order to infect someone else. (There are too many variables at this point: strength of the virus, number of particles, strength of others immune systems etc..)
How Norovirus works on the human body
Step 1 first the virus is ingested by transfer viral particles. Viral particles (VIRUSES) they are one of the smallest things on earth. They range from 10 - 300 nanometers (nm) in diameter (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter or one millionth of a millimeter. Noro is approximately 38 nm in diameter). Ingestion can happen from viral particles from feaces or vomit entering the body through your mouth, nose, or perhaps by touching your eyes.
Step 2 These particles then move to your stomach, but here it doesn't do anything to cause illness.
Step 3 They then enter your small intestine, and here the virus begins to multiply, which may take from 12-48 hours before you show any symptoms. The lining of your small intestine has appropriate attachments for the virus. It attaches itself and releases its genome (bio genes). Those genes shut down the cells normal functions and start taking control of the cell in order to make more viruses. So your cells become a factory for the virus replicating. (A virus cannot self replicate, it requires a living cell to reproduce).
Step 4 The cells then "explode" or lysis releasing more copies of the virus. It then keeps going to more cells and repeats the process.
Step 5 While this is happening your immune system response recognises that cells are dying and T-cells allow your body to mount an immune response against it. They go to B-cells and produce antibodies. These antibodies then travel to the small intestine and inactivate the virus. (What an amazing thing the human body is!). During this time you are ill with the effects of the virus. The importance of your dietary intake is to be noted here, as a healthy diet gives the body a stronger immune system. The time taken for the body to produce antibody's is affected by our diets.
Step 6 The vomiting process is a secondary response. It's your body's way (evolutionarily) to respond to the infection. It doesn't actually do anything to help you. There is no need to get the virus out of your body, as it’s not in your stomach anyway, It’s in your intestinal tract. The brain may allow you to "not vomit" if you convince it to. While this is a fine idea when infected with Norovirus, it’s not if you’ve ingested a chemical poison. (0ne reason people vomit when they see another person vomit is to eject possible viral particles this is part of evolutionary development of mankind).
Step 7 The antibodies deactivate the virus. The person who had the virus then becomes immune to this particular strain, even though it is highly contagious to others. (People are contagious up to 48hrs after the symptoms have passed).
Controlling a Norovirus outbreak
Whatever the setting, schools, coach travel, hotels, care homes, or child nurseries. Controlling a potential outbreak requires policies, procedures, training and equipment. Immediate safe clean up of any body fluids (vomit, urine, faeces, or blood) is the first part on controlling a viral outbreak of Norovirus. Always assume body fluids contain infections.(ViRUSafe offer a range of body spill kits with a workable procedure to safely manage any body fluid spills. Click here for details). The cleaning chemicals used to destroy the virus outside of the body also need to be proven effective against Norovirus while being safe to use on all surfaces (Norovirus is a hard virus to kill). ViRUSafe recommend VIRUSOLVE+ which has been tested and proven to kill Norovirus, and which is safe to use on any surface including fabrics, and carpets. Unlike chlorine based products which damage many materials. (click here to buy VIRUSOLVE+). The need to train staff to recognize an outbreak and the appointment of outbreak managers, co-ordinators and clean up teams mean once an outbreak is suspected an action plan can be quickly actioned and reduce the risk of cross infection. The methods used to clean can play an important roll in in the control of Norovirus outbreaks. Paying attention to frequently touched surfaces and bio-fogging can reduce the risk of cross infection and kill the virus. Micro-bacterial cleaning methods are used to clean what is invisible to us. For more information contact ViRUSafe.
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Transmission of Norovirus from surfaces
The virus can be active outside a host (person) on surfaces such as counters, toilets, sinks, doorknobs and even clothing. It is unknown exactly how long the virus can live on such surfaces, as this depends on the number of viral particles, temperature, and the nature of the environment. However, you can't catch anything by just touching a doorknob. You would have to put your hand into your mouth or on your nose afterward. Therefore, hand-washing is imperative to prevention of transmission.
The main reason for all the Norovirus outbreaks is poor hygiene, i.e., people defecating and not washing hands afterward, then contaminating surfaces or foods.
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