One of my son’s coworkers wife is a pharmacist at Target. She sent him a text from the Minnesota Department of Health indicating that a new strain of norovirus was hitting Minnesota. (More)

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One of his friends who also lives with us has it and he is miserable. The ways to avoid it are proper food handling and lots and lots of handwashing. Some schools in Minnesota have closed since so many kids are sick. Rochester is particularly hard hit.

The whole Minnesota Department of Health press release is here.

Illness caused by norovirus is often mistakenly called “stomach flu,” which is a confusing term because norovirus is not related to influenza. Influenza is a respiratory illness, with symptoms that include high fever, chills, body aches, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, and/or coughing. Norovirus is not a respiratory illness, and is not spread through breathing or coughing.

“When people say that they have ‘stomach flu,’ referring to a short illness with diarrhea and/or vomiting, what they generally have is a norovirus infection,” said Saupe.

Norovirus can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches, a general run-down feeling, and a mild fever. Symptoms typically begin 24 to 48 hours after swallowing the virus, and usually last one to two days. The virus passes from one person to another by the fecal-oral route. That means the virus comes from the feces or vomit of people who are sick or were recently sick, and can make someone else sick if they get the virus in their mouth and swallow it. A tiny amount of virus can make someone sick.

My son and daughter-in-law have both been fighting off colds and congestion. The baby and I are symptom free although I wonder how long the baby can stick anything and everything into her mouth and not get sick. We have all become rigorous hand washers.

Consider this your public service announcement. Wash your hands and handle food carefully. If you needed an argument for why workers, particularly food service workers, need paid sick leave … this is a good one.

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