Prevent the spread of norovirus during the holidays
What is norovirus?
During the holidays, make sure your family and friends go home with only a mild case of overeating and not a foodborne illness. Norovirus is currently the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in Minnesota. An outbreak can easily happen during the holidays when there is contact with more foods and more people.
This highly contagious virus is usually spread by direct person-to-person contact or through contaminated food. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea with a mild fever and chills. Symptoms usually disappear after a couple days, but infected people can still spread the disease up to two weeks after symptoms end.
Outbreaks usually occur when someone eats food or drinks liquids that were handled by an infected person who did not wash hands properly. People also become infected after touching contaminated surfaces, objects (e.g. serving utensils), raw foods or ready-to-eat foods (e.g. salads, vegetable trays, cookies) and then touching their mouth or eating without washing their hands first. Food served buffet-style is an easy way to share contaminated food items.
Handwashing is important before preparing food, before eating and after using the bathroom.
The best way to prevent the spread of this virus is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds. Handwashing is important before preparing food, before eating and after using the bathroom. Also, wash your hands before and after changing diapers or helping someone who is ill.
Prevention strategies of norovirus during the holidays
- Wash fruits and vegetables before serving, especially if served raw.
- Stay home if you are ill with diarrhea and vomiting.
- Keep sick children and ill infants in diapers away from food preparation and serving areas.
- Toss contaminated food items.
- Clean and sanitize contaminated surfaces with a bleach solution (1 teaspoon bleach mixed with 1 quart of water).
- On the holiday buffet table, serve food in small containers and replace them often. This helps keep hands from contaminating food. Also, the new dish will keep food at a safe temperature longer.
- When serving dips, place a spoon near the serving bowl to encourage guests to spoon the dip onto plates. This helps discourage "double dipping."
Revised February 2011 by Carol Ann Burtness. Peer reviewed by Suzanne Driessen, University of Minnesota Extension educator, 2012