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Airborne norovirus could be even more contagious this winter

Airborne norovirus could be even more contagious this winter

With the winds of winter fast approaching, the norovirus - the vomiting bug that comes into prominence during the cold season - arrives with it.

Characterised by its short life​ span - bouts typically last no longer than four days, and often enduring for only 24 hours - vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps, the norovirus is a nasty piece of work, and new research has found that it's just got a little nastier.

How does the norovirus spread?

The highly contagious virus has always been known to spread through contact with an already infected person or touching contaminated surfaces such as door handles and taps. 

There is no surefire way to guard against the norovirus, but there are still certain measures that you can take to minimise your chances of falling ill.

Now, analysis has found that the norovirus can spread through the air at a distance of several metres, reports a study carried out by Laval University in Quebec.

The news means that hospitals, as well as other closed quarters in which the norovirus normally thrives, such as cruise ships, will have to rethink their strategy when it comes to containing the bug.

The research took place in eight hospitals and long-term care facilities that were currently affected by norovirus outbreaks.

Air samples were gathered from infected patients from a distance of 1 metre, at doorways and nursing stations. 

The norovirus was found to be airborne at six of the eight establishments, and at notably high levels, being detected in:

  • 54 per cent of the patients' rooms;
  • 38 per cent of the hallways leading to their rooms;
  • 50 per cent of nursing stations.
The norovirus can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.The norovirus can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Additionally, it was found that concentrations of the virus ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per cubic metre of air - only 20 norovirus particles are needed to cause infection.

"The measures applied in hospital settings are only designed to limit direct contact with infected patients. In light of our results, these rules need to be reviewed to take into account the possibility of airborne transmission of noroviruses," said Caroline Duchaine, who led the study.

How can I protect myself from the norovirus?

Though there is no vaccine or surefire way to guard against the norovirus, there are still certain measures that you can take to minimise your chances of falling ill.

Basic hygiene is of paramount importance, and none more so than washing your hands with generous amounts of soap at every opportunity, but especially after using the bathroom and preparing food.

The norovirus can live on surfaces for several days at a time according to the Centre for Disease Control, so it's important to keep these as clean as possible.

Avoid touching your face and mouth, as these are the most likely entry points for the virus. Also, changing your bedding as often as possible can help prevent its spread.

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Airborne norovirus could be even more contagious this winter

With the winds of winter fast approaching, the norovirus - the vomiting bug that comes into prominence during the cold season - arrives with it.

Characterised by its short life​ span - bouts typically last no longer than four days, and often enduring for only 24 hours - vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps, the norovirus is a nasty piece of work, and new research has found that it's just got a little nastier.

How does the norovirus spread?

The highly contagious virus has always been known to spread through contact with an already infected person or touching contaminated surfaces such as door handles and taps. 

There is no surefire way to guard against the norovirus, but there are still certain measures that you can take to minimise your chances of falling ill.

Now, analysis has found that the norovirus can spread through the air at a distance of several metres, reports a study carried out by Laval University in Quebec.

The news means that hospitals, as well as other closed quarters in which the norovirus normally thrives, such as cruise ships, will have to rethink their strategy when it comes to containing the bug.

The research took place in eight hospitals and long-term care facilities that were currently affected by norovirus outbreaks.

Air samples were gathered from infected patients from a distance of 1 metre, at doorways and nursing stations. 

The norovirus was found to be airborne at six of the eight establishments, and at notably high levels, being detected in:

  • 54 per cent of the patients' rooms;
  • 38 per cent of the hallways leading to their rooms;
  • 50 per cent of nursing stations.
The norovirus can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.The norovirus can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Additionally, it was found that concentrations of the virus ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per cubic metre of air - only 20 norovirus particles are needed to cause infection.

"The measures applied in hospital settings are only designed to limit direct contact with infected patients. In light of our results, these rules need to be reviewed to take into account the possibility of airborne transmission of noroviruses," said Caroline Duchaine, who led the study.

How can I protect myself from the norovirus?

Though there is no vaccine or surefire way to guard against the norovirus, there are still certain measures that you can take to minimise your chances of falling ill.

Basic hygiene is of paramount importance, and none more so than washing your hands with generous amounts of soap at every opportunity, but especially after using the bathroom and preparing food.

The norovirus can live on surfaces for several days at a time according to the Centre for Disease Control, so it's important to keep these as clean as possible.

Avoid touching your face and mouth, as these are the most likely entry points for the virus. Also, changing your bedding as often as possible can help prevent its spread.

Airborne norovirus could be even more contagious this winter
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