The Commercial Appeal

Experts: Don’t be obsessed over norovirus

Travelers can be aware and take precaution­s

- Nathan Diller

With norovirus cases on the upswing, some travelers may be rethinking their plans. But there’s no need to worry more than usual.

Norovirus cases have risen throughout the U.S. recently, but the numbers are not unusual, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The most recent CDC data collected from the NOROSTAT program and the National Respirator­y and Enteric Virus Surveillan­ce System show that reported norovirus outbreaks and reported cases from both state health department­s and clinical laboratori­es are increasing, but remain within the expected range for this time of year,” a CDC spokespers­on told USA TODAY in an email.

“I think it’s worth knowing the epidemiolo­gical situation wherever you’re traveling to, like it’s worth knowing the weather report where you’re traveling,” said Ben Lopman, a professor of epidemiolo­gy at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. “But ... there are things you can do to reduce your risks.”

Norovirus causes diarrhea and vomiting, according to the CDC’S website. The illness is highly contagious, and people can get infected by interactin­g directly with someone who is infected, consuming food or water that is contaminat­ed, or putting unwashed hands in their mouths after touching contaminat­ed surfaces. Other symptoms can include stomach pain, nausea, headache, body aches and fever.

There’s no particular medicine to treat norovirus, but the agency recommends drinking lots of fluids to prevent dehydratio­n.

Lopman said travelers can protect themselves by washing their hands frequently with soap and water. “Those alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t work very well for norovirus, so soap and water is really the way to go,” he said.

When cooking, the CDC recommends washing produce carefully and cooking oysters and shellfish to a minimum internal temperatur­e of 145 degrees.

Lopman also recommende­d those infected isolate themselves. Most people recover within three days, but they can remain infectious even after they feel better, making hand-washing especially important.

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