Fol­low­ing these sim­ple ex­pert tips to out­smart the germs

Costa Almería News - - Health -

By Liz Con­nor IT STARTS with a fore­bod­ing col­league men­tion­ing they don't feel quite right. Per­haps it was the un­der­cooked prawns at lunch, or last night's take­away?

Be­fore you know it, the work toi­lets have be­come a quar­an­tine for sick­nessstricken work­ers, too fee­ble to make it into an emer­gency taxi home (while ev­ery­body else starts to ob­ses­sively douse var­i­ous body parts in anti-bac­te­rial gel).

Yes, win­ter is back, and while we can all look for­ward to the ex­cesses of the fes­tive sea­son, there's one el­e­ment of the colder months that no­body en­joys: norovirus.

More un­pleas­antly known as the ' win­ter vom­it­ing bug', this highly con­ta­gious vi­ral in­fec­tion is the silent fun-killer of ev­ery of­fice, lurk­ing in key­boards and on taps, ready to take down un­sus­pect­ing work­ers right be­fore the Christ­mas party.

Sick sea­son is un­flap­pably con­stant, but you don't have to catch norovirus ev­ery time Novem­ber rolls around. It's all about know­ing your en­emy.

It's highly in­fec­tious

In the UK, Norovirus is the most com­mon stom­ach bug, with be­tween 600,000 and one mil­lion peo­ple con­tract­ing it each year, ex­plains GP Dr Roger Hen­der­son.

"The virus is in­cred­i­bly con­ta­gious and can be passed on through con­tact with an in­fected per­son, or con­tact with con­tam­i­nated sur­faces or ob­jects. Fae­cal mat­ter can also carry the virus, mean­ing it can be found on toi­let seats and han­dles," he ex­plains.

"You can also get norovirus from con­tam­i­nated food and wa­ter, es­pe­cially bi­valve mol­luscs, such as oys­ters, mus­sels, clams, cock­les and scal­lops."

As well as the ob­vi­ous breed­ing ground of the of­fice, other germ hotspots to be par­tic­u­larly wary of dur­ing the win­ter months in­clude pub­lic trans­port, schools and cruise ships.

It will bring you down fast

Norovirus doesn't take long to turn you into an ex­tra from The Walk­ing Dead; the virus par­ti­cles are ex­tremely fas­tact­ing, and are usu­ally in­gested through ei­ther your mouth or nose. It has a very short in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod, and once you've come into con­tact with the virus, it only takes 12-48 hours for symp­toms to kick in.

It hits the stom­ach first, but it's only when norovirus ar­rives at the small in­tes­tine that it re­ally be­gins to mul­ti­ply (this is gen­er­ally when you start to feel the first twinges of nau­sea). Much like a par­a­site, the virus is not able to op­er­ate as a sin­gle agent - it needs liv­ing cells to feed from. Once it's gained con­trol, it's able to spread like wild­fire by at­tach­ing it­self to healthy cells in the lin­ing the in­tes­tine.

Dur­ing this early in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod, the in­fected cells ex­plode, pro­duc­ing repli­cas of the virus and re­leas­ing more in­fected par­ti­cles into the blood­stream.

You'll suf­fer for 48 hours

At this point, you'll be­gin to feel very un­well, as your body's im­mune sys­tem twigs that some­thing isn't quite right and be­gins to pro­duce an­ti­bod­ies to fight the in­fected cells.

You may ex­pe­ri­ence sud­den pro­jec­tile vom­it­ing and wa­tery diar­rhoea as your body at­tempts to fight the in­fec­tion. While this may be alarm­ing in its un­pleas­ant­ness, these are your body's nat­u­ral trig­ger-re­sponses, as your im­mune sys­tem toils to flush the par­ti­cles out of your body. (The irony is, though, the worst side-ef­fects of norovirus that keep us glued to the toi­let are, in fact, com­pletely point­less, as the virus af­fects the small in­tes­tine, not the stom­ach, which means vom­it­ing and diar­rhoea do very lit­tle to help.)

As well as the dreaded toi­let runs, Dr Hen­der­son notes that you may ex­pe­ri­ence stom­ach cramps, ab­dom­i­nal pain, fa­tigue and a mild fever while you're con­ta­gious.

The good news is, norovirus tends to leave as quickly as it ar­rives, usu­ally last­ing one to two days. Peo­ple gen­er­ally find they con­tinue to feel weak for a few days af­ter­wards, as the im­mune sys­tems works over­time to bat­tle against the in­fec­tion, grad­u­ally lo­cat­ing the in­fected cells and de­ac­ti­vat­ing them.

Re­cov­ery takes a while

At this point, you're prob­a­bly won­der­ing if there's some­thing you can do to speed up the re­cov­ery process. The short an­swer is no.

"There is no spe­cific treat­ment for the virus but to let the ill­ness run its course," says Hen­der­son. "While the symp­toms are not pleas­ant, most peo­ple make a full re­cov­ery within a few days. Both vom­it­ing and diar­rhoea cause loss of wa­ter from the body, so you need to drink plenty of liq­uids to re­place lost flu­ids. An­tidiar­rheal medicines such as lop­eramide can ease symp­toms, while parac­eta­mol helps aches and pains."

You might be tempted to rush straight back to work once the vom­it­ing quells, but Hen­der­son ad­vises stay­ing at home un­til 48 hours af­ter the symp­toms have passed, oth­er­wise you still run the risk of pass­ing the virus onto oth­ers.

"Be­cause it is highly con­ta­gious, the best thing is to stay at home and away from pub­lic places - in­clud­ing your doc­tor's surgery. You should also dis­in­fect all sur­faces that have been con­tam­i­nated by the virus, such as toi­lets, bed­ding and walls."

There are ways to keep the virus at bay

So how do you avoid get­ting sick dur­ing the cheeri­est of sea­sons? Christ­mas is all about com­ing to­gether, and no­body wants to be con­fined to their quar­ters like a Scrooge all win­ter.

Your best course of ac­tion is to prac­tice good hy­giene. Wash­ing your hands af­ter us­ing the toi­let should in­volve a good scrub with anti-bac­te­rial soap, not just a quick splash of wa­ter be­fore you run out of the bath­room.

"Con­sider wear­ing gloves when trav­el­ling on pub­lic trans­port and avoid touch­ing your face and mouth with your hands," adds Hen­der­son.

Norovirus is also good mo­ti­va­tion for a de­layed spring clean. Scour your sur­faces, but don't over­look places that might have been touched by a sick part­ner, col­league or fam­ily mem­ber, such as re­mote con­trols, phones, door­knobs and key­boards.

The virus can linger on hard sur­faces for days and with­stand many ba­sic an­tibac­te­rial sprays, so throw on your Marigolds and start scrub­bing with a di­luted

Norovirus is known as the win­ter vom­it­ing bug

Your are likely to suf­fer from a headache and feel very un­well

The norovirus bug is highly in­fec­tious

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