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Norovirus: It’s real, it’s awful, and you need to protect yourself.

norovirusTwo days ago my mom told me she couldn’t move. I tried to help her get up to go to the bathroom. As she gripped her walker (which she uses rarely), I held her from behind to try to guide her throughout our home. She started to fall. I decided there was no way we could make it, and as I guided back to her chair, I watched her feet buckle under her.

My mother has a number of health problems, but I’ve never seen her do this before. Her body was like heavy Jell-O.

Upon recommendation from my mother’s dialysis nurse, I had my mother sent by ambulance to the Emergency Room, where they tried to administer medicine and food to her and she was unable to keep anything in her system. I couldn’t join her because I was sick myself with a cold – and in retrospect, I’m glad I opted to stay home.

My mother was diagnosed with Norovirus, which has been rapidly spreading across various parts of the country. It was brought to the U.S. on cruise ships in December 2012. It is highly contagious, and since it was brought to the states, it’s put many areas at a standstill. A school in nearby Lincoln, Arkansas was shut down a few weeks ago because of a Norovirus outbreak.

Since my mother was diagnosed, I have learned there are several ways you can protect yourself from contracting this illness. Wash your hands (soap and water, not liquid hand sanitizer), do not take care of anyone who is sick if you are sick, do not drink after people and meticulously clean with cleaners that include bleach.

Should you come down with this illness (I’m still unsure if I’ll get it or not), you need to drink plenty of fluids. Keep some Pedialyte on hand; apple juice is also good. Here is a handy widget from the Centers for Disease Control that you can embed into your own site:

There is no treatment for Norovirus; you just have to sit it out and get plenty of fluids in your system. But do not hesitate to go to the emergency room for treatment if you feel you need to. Because my mother is diabetic and a dialysis patient, we and her medical professionals thought it best for her to be hospitalized.

Here’s a great interview with Kristen Gibson, an assistant professor of molecular food safety and microbiology at the University of Arkansas. Having studied Norovirus for a decade, Prof. Gibson explains the symptoms and causes of Norovirus, why it is spreading across schools, how you can prevent yourself from contracting it, and what to do if you do contract the virus.

This has been a really scary weekend, and normally I would not share such personal information with my readers, but since there are serious outbreaks happening across the country, I wanted you to be aware of how serious this is.

Here are some more resources:

Mayo Clinic: Norovirus Infection

Centers for Disease Control: Norovirus Overview

CNN: What You Need To Know About Kids and Norovirus

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