Norovirus is the most common cause of outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea. It affects more than 20 million Americans each year. There are more than 150 norovirus-like illness outbreaks per year in Michigan. Outbreaks happen at public events and in group settings, such as long-term care facilities, restaurants, schools, and cruise ships.
Norovirus is most often spread by person-to-person contact but also can be spread from high-touch surfaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
You can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting stool or vomit from infected people in your mouth. This usually happens by
- eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
- touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or
- having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness).
Because of this, people who have had norovirus should avoid public settings while sick and for 48 hours after symptoms disappear. In addition, both sick and well individuals should wash their hands often, especially after using restrooms and before eating.
Foods prepared by ill or recently ill individuals at restaurants or at home for group gatherings, such as graduation parties, are also sources of norovirus. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. Anyone who has been sick with an acute stomach illness (vomiting or diarrhea) should be free of symptoms for a minimum of 48 hours before preparing foods.
To see how far the germs from vomiting can spread, watch the "Vomiting Larry" video.
If you are ill or caring for someone who may be ill with any gastrointestinal illness, BEDHD suggests that you follow the CDC recommendations for norovirus. These and other information about norovirus, including additional food-safety guidelines, are available on the CDC's norovirus webpages.
It is extremely important to clean up and disinfect properly after a vomiting or diarrheal incident. This "Guidelines For Environmental Cleaning And Disinfection of Norovirus" document explains how to clean up and disinfect and also explains requirements and suggestions for food service establishments, schools and day cares, and health care facilities.
This poster also summarizes how to clean up after a vomiting incident.