Parties, family, friends, food and giving are a few of the things that make the holiday season a special time of the year. As people gather for celebrations we need to be reminded that these settings lend themselves to sharing more than good cheer. Many illnesses can be spread as people indulge in the smorgasbord of treats presented at parties and family gatherings.
Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses are becoming the leading cause of foodborne disease in the United States. These viruses have been responsible for shipwrecking numerous cruise passengers in the past few years and are often the source of what people call the “stomach flu”. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps usually lasting 2-3 days. Symptoms usually develop one to two days after consuming food or beverage that has been contaminated with the virus.
The transmission of the virus occurs when an infected person inadequately washes their hands after using the restroom and then prepares food. There have even been cases where an individual was providing care for a sick child and then transferred the organism without having symptoms themselves. Also, a person may shed the virus for several days after their symptoms have subsided.
To prevent Norwalk virus infection: 1) wash hands with soap and warm water after toilet visits and before preparing or eating food; 2) cook all shellfish thoroughly before eating; 3) wash raw vegetables before eating; and 4) dispose of sewage in a sanitary manner. It is extremely important that foodservice workers who develop symptoms do not prepare or serve food or beverages for as long as the symptoms last and for at least 24 hours after symptoms end. More information on Norwalk virus is available at www.cdc.gov.
Be sure that this holiday season, the only thing you spread is good cheer.