• 61°

Mayo Clinic urges steps to prevent norovirus, other GI illnesses

The holidays were a perfect time to gather with family and friends, along with shopping excursions and workplace potlucks. These, in turn, can lead to an uninvited guest: norovirus, which causes people to become sick with cramping, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to a press release.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus, which typically infects a person for one to three days.

Anyone can get infected with norovirus and become sick. Also, you can get norovirus illness many times in your life. Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that can cause gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Each year, norovirus causes approximately 20 million illnesses, resulting in tens of thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths. If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults and people with other illnesses. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in Minnesota.

Mayo Clinic Health System offers these tips to prevent illness:

Stay home if you are sick. This means staying home from school and work; food service workers are required by law to stay home if they are sick.

Practice proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer to use.

Be smart in the kitchen. Do not prepare food while you are sick; carefully rinse fruits and vegetables, and thoroughly cook oysters and other shellfish before serving.

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.

Avoid potluck gatherings.

As difficult as this may be, it’s good advice to stay away from homemade items just to reduce exposure to potentially contaminated food.

For more information about norovirus and how to prevent and treat the illness, visit mayoclinic.org.