Every year, thousand of people come down with what they often believe to be the stomach flu: gastric distress, fever, headache and other symptoms. More often than not, however, this infection isn’t influenza but rather norovirus, a very contagious virus that is the most common cause of gastroenteritis.
In February of 2015, the Centers for Disease Control alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began research into how to create a vaccine that could protect travelers and the general public from this potentially debilitating disease. As of now, a norovirus vaccine is just a concept, and many important questions still remain including whether humans can develop an immunity to the virus and if immunity to one strain will protect against others.
For now, more research needs to be done, and, unlike Ebola, malaria or dengue fever vaccinations, it is unlikely we will see this vaccination in the immediate future. However, there are many precautions that can be taken in order to avoid contracting norovirus, especially while traveling.
Practicing proper hygiene is the first step to prevention and the most important in many cases. Washing hands on a regular basis will help travelers avoid accidentally ingesting any contaminants that could lead to gastric distress. Making sure that foods are washed thoroughly and prepared by healthy individuals is also a key step.
If you do contract norovirus while traveling, be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of fluids. Sports drinks and other drinks that do not contain alcohol or caffeine can help as well as using oral rehydration mixtures such as CeraLyte.
Norovirus is one of the primary causes of diarrhea, including traveler’s diarrhea, and it can make a trip miserable. Be sure to get a traveler’s diarrhea kit at a travel health clinic before you go on any trip to avoid the embarrassment, discomfort and loss of enjoyment that can come with norovirus and traveler’s diarrhea.
For more information on norovirus and current research see the CDC’s norovirus page.
For more information on traveler’s diarrhea see Passport Health’s traveler’s diarrhea portal.
Have you been affected by norovirus while on a trip? What did you do to help you get over the effects of the virus? Let us know in the comments section below or through our Facebook and Twitter pages.