The Canadian Press reports that drinking water may be behind winter outbreaks of norovirus.
Norovirus, also known as “stomach flu” or gastroenteritis, infects people much more frequently during the winter. Canadian researchers found that outbreaks are more likely to happen the week after water temperatures drop below a certain point.
The findings suggest that certain environmental conditions allow noroviruses from sewage to find their way back into drinking water.
Norovirus symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. The virus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route. People get the virus on their hands – in a bathroom, for instance – and then transfer the virus to their mouth by eating, drinking, or other contact with the face.
Dr. Aron Hall of the CDC explains that norovirus is more common during the winter for some obvious reasons: “It’s essentially for many of the same reasons that influenza tends to be seasonal. People are typically indoors more and therefore have more contact with one another. They’re in closer contact with one another. … And so the more humans you pack together in a smaller area over a longer period of time the more likely you are to have infection.
“The waterborne outbreaks of norovirus that we typically see are either due to drinking water sources in which chlorination or other disinfection systems have broken down.”
To decrease your chances of contracting norovirus this winter:
Install a water purifier at your source of drinking water.
Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating and after using the restroom.
Prepare your own food at home whenever possible, and use a UV sanitizer to clean kitchen surfaces.