household cleaner with rubber gloves bucket and sponge..With the recent and reoccurring outbreaks of Norovirus, especially on cruise ships, what do we really know?

Norovirus is part of a family of viruses.  It can be called Norovirus, viral gastroenteritis, acute nonbacterial gastroenteritis, food poisoning and foodborne infection.  An estimated 19-21 million cases are reported each year in the United States.  Only 26% of these come from eating contaminated food.  The other 74% of the cases come from exposure in a contaminated environment.  A contaminated environment includes surfaces touched by many people such as door knobs, faucet handles, and telephones.

Contaminated environments result from the virus spreading through vomit, diarrhea, and contaminated water.  Since viruses  are microscopic, we do not see where they land.  Someone touches a contaminated surface and then handles food, contaminating the food and potentially making someone sick.

How can we avoid becoming ill?

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
  • If you are sick, avoid preparing food for others.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces contaminated by vomiting or diarrhea (use bleach, 1 Tablespoon of household bleach diluted in 1 gallon of water).  Pay particular attention to areas where food is prepared and stored.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
  • If you are concerned about the water source, choose bottled water and do not add ice to your beverages.
  • Wash clothing or linens soiled by vomit or fecal matter immediately. Remove the items carefully to avoid spreading the virus. Machine wash and dry.

For more information check out the resources listed below.

Ohio State University Extension, Norovirus: A Different Type of Foodborne Illness, Ohioline Fact Sheet HYG-5569-11,

U.S. Health and Human Services,  Norovirus (Norwalk virus)

Author:  Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension,

Reviewer: Kate Shumaker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

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