Category Archives: Virus and Flu

Norovirus Outbreak

The norovirus is once again in the news, this time it struck roughly 178 passengers aboard the Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess. The Norovirus, commonly referred to as the stomach flu, can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The virus is highly contagious and can spread from person to person if they do not wash their hands.

The Princess Cruises’ ship became the second cruise shop this week affected by the norovirus. The Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas docked in New Jersey on Wednesday, when 700 crew and passengers fell ill, the highest number of sick people reported on any cruise shop in two decades! Many of you may know that Las Vegas, where LivOn Labs is located, was hit with the norovirus in early December when 100 people staying at the Rio became sick during a youth football tournament.

How can you protect yourself?

What is the norovirus?

The norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone and can be serious for some people, especially young children and older adults. You can become infected by coming into contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. In 2012, a new strain of norovirus was detected resulting in many more cases of the illness. People in many countries have already been infected with the new strain including the United States.

Symptoms of norovirus

The symptoms of norovirus are inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines causing severe stomach distress. This may include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Also known as the stomach flu, it is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis. 

Norovirus Trends and Outbreaks

According to the Centers for Disease Control, norovirus causes 19 million to 21 million illnesses a year, most often in crowded and poorly sanitized environments such as nursing homes, day care centers, and surprise! cruise ships. Over half of all norovirus outbreaks reported in the United States occur in long-term care facilities however cruise ships have a long history with the norovirus.

Last year, there were a total of 9 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships, which was down from 11 the year before (2012).

The leading cause of norovirus is contaminated food with roughly 50% of all outbreaks. Most common foods involved in outbreaks of norovirus are:

  • Leafy greens such as lettuce
  • Fresh fruits
  • Shellfish

However the CDC warns that any food served raw or undercooked can be contaminated. Approximately, 500 to 800 deaths are caused by the norovirus each year, though there are generally more in years when a new strain develops.

Treatment and Avoidance

Since norovirus is a viral infection it can not be treated with antibiotics. If you have norovirus drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration including sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol. Most people will recover from norovirus within days of contamination.

To protect yourself from the norovirus, do not share food or utensils with people who are sick or have just been sick. If you are near someone who is sick be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and wipe down surfaces with a diluted bleach solution. Do not rely on alcohol-based hand sanitizer since it will not destroy the virus. Be careful when coming into contact with linens, which were used by someone who is sick since the virus can also be transmitted this way.

Finally, keep your hands away from your mouth and nose. These are the highways that illnesses like to travel on. Whenever you get that urge to bite your nails or dig for gold, just pretend someone is watching you.

watching you

 

Happy Virus Appreciation Day!

Yup, it’s a real thing.

October 3rd, is recognized as Virus Appreciation Day. Which virus exactly? No one really knows, the creators didn’t specify or identify themselves. So instead let us highlight how to destroy or avoid any virus.

Computer Viruses

Computer viruses have been around since the early 1970’s — before computers were in every home. With the expansion of knowledge, the average person with no formal computer science education can infect computers and networks.

One of the most damaging viruses was the I Love You virus.

In May 2000, a Filipino computer science student used VBScript to infect millions of Windows computers worldwide within a few hours. Considered to be the most damaging worm ever, it was spread using an email message with the subject line “ILOVEYOU” and the attachment “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU-.txt.vbs”. Notice the end of this attachment, .vbs, which stands for Microsoft VBScript. The worm would infect the local machine, overwriting image files and sending a copy of itself to the first 50 addresses in the recipient’s Windows Address Book.

How To Protect Your Computer

It is estimated that the ILOVEYOU worm caused $5.5 to 8.7 billion in damages worldwide and cost an estimated $15 billion to remove the worm.

You can protect yourself by not opening any attachments from unknown sources as well as paying attention to the extension of the attachment. Avoid opening any of the following. These extensions tend to be the most common executable programs.

  1. EXE – DOS based executable file or program
  2. VBS – Visual Basic Scripts that execute a program or function
  3. ADE –
  4. ASP – Microsoft Active Server Page.
  5. BAT – MS-DOS batch file.
  6. HTML – HyperText Markup Language
  7. JS – JavaScript File – A text file containing JavaScript programming code.
  8. XSL – XML style sheet.

Note that there is no set list and these are constantly changing. Also some of these viruses are able to mask the extension or make it seem like a text document. This was the method used by the ILOVEYOU virus which appeared to be a text (txt) document. To learn more, read About Potentially Unsafe File Types.

Human Viruses

There are several tools available to you to protect yourself from viruses and the flu bug.  A good article to read is What Are the Odds of Getting the Flu? In this article the author shares several tools to keep you and your family healthy.  Viruses are spread by human contact. When you see someone coughing or sneezing, protect yourself and keep your distance. Also, remember that germs lurk all around us. On our keyboard at work, door knobs, cabinets, just about anywhere humans interact with objects. Keep your hands away from your eyes and nose. These are the highways that viruses love to cruise on.

Wash your hands frequently and don’t rely on only a bottle of hand sanitizer. Although this can kill some of the germs, the most effective way to keep your hands clean is to wash them with soap and water.

This Virus Appreciation Day, let us raise our awareness about how to protect ourselves and avoid missing work or school. Our health is money and prevention is far more cost efficient than visiting the doctor after you have become sick.