While most people recover from Norovirus, it causes approximately 700 deaths per year, mostly in young children and the elderly. As there are different strains, having the disease previously does not protect you from future infections. There are approximately 20 million cases of Norovirus every year, which puts a burden on our health care system.
While the highly contagious Norovirus can be transmitted person-to-person, or in bodies of water, it is the leading cause of food-related illness. Contamination of food can occur at any point within the food system - during growing or irrigation, shipping, or preparation. Any type of food can become contaminated, but those that are handled more, such as leafy greens, fresh fruits, and shellfish, are more likely to be culprits. Norovirus is characterized by acute gastroenteritis, inflammation of the stomach and intestines - leading to vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and body aches.
Like Norovirus, Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can be transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food. While it can be mild, it can turn deadly months or even years later by acute liver failure. Symptoms of Hepatitis A include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, malaise, and jaundice. Recovery can take months.
There are a few simple steps to avoid these two deadly diseases:
- Proper hand hygiene - washing your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before eating or handling food. Alcohol-based sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but not as a substitute.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Cook seafood thoroughly to 145°F, which is higher than the typical steaming of shellfish.
- Do not prepare food for others if you are sick and at least 2 days after symptoms stop.
- Clean contaminated surfaces with a beach solution.
- Wash laundry thoroughly, especially any that might be contaminated with vomit or stool, and machine dry them.
- Receive the hepatitis A vaccine if traveling to an area that has a high rate of hepatits A infection.
- Be wary of where your drinking water comes from.