On February 4th, security guards at the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, suddenly fell ill. The guards were plagued with a norovirus outbreak, causing 1,200 to be removed from their posts. But how did this virus spread so quickly, and are you at risk of catching it?
Chances are, you’ve already had a norovirus infection. There are plenty of weird things that make your stomach ache, but norovirus is the most common cause of the “stomach flu.” Norovirus causes symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. It’s incredibly contagious, and symptoms generally appear within 48 hours of initial exposure to the virus.
Okay, so how do you get it?
Norovirus can be transmitted in a variety of ways. According to the CDC, you can contract the virus by eating contaminated food or drinking fluids that contain the virus. But touching your mouth after touching contaminated surfaces or objects can also make you sick, and so can coming into contact with another person who has the virus. For these reasons, the disease spreads easily in contained spaces like nursing homes, schools, and even cruise ships. Winter months — from November to April — are when the virus is most likely to spread.
Luckily, there are ways you can keep yourself healthy.
To avoid getting norovirus, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and make sure to clean any surface that could be contaminated. Avoid sharing things like towels with someone who may have had the virus. Cooking food can also help kill the virus, and washing produce before you eat it can keep you healthy, too.
If you do get sick, you’ll generally start to feel better after a few days, according to the Mayo Clinic. Until then, stay hydrated, eat bland foods, and get plenty of rest. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take your sick days when you feel under the weather; it can stop your stomach bug from becoming a full-blown office plague.
Illnesses like norovirus can be nasty. But thankfully, with diligence and self-care you can keep yourself from getting sick. Stay healthy, everyone!