The season for the Norovirus is coming and this year it could be a bad one. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself

Heads up, Australia - Sydney 2012 is coming. Sadly, though, it’s not some exciting sporting event or festival, it’s a new strain of a bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Discovered by virologist Professor Peter White at the University of New South Wales last year, It’s been causing havoc in the UK and US ever since and this Is the first winter it’s likely to really cause trouble on our shores.

It’s a new strain of a bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea

“l knew straightaway it was a potentially pandemic strain” says White. As many as 40,000 people could become infected. The problem is that Sydney 2012 is a hybrid strain of the virus which makes it more likely to evade detection by your immune system if you catch it. So how can you reduce your risk of exposure?

Move away fast

If someone vomits near you, you want to get out of their vicinity as fast as you can. “One of the reasons Norovirus is so infectious is that you only need to be exposed to 20 particles of the virus to catch it most other viruses need hundreds of particles explains norovirus expert Professor Ian Goodfellow, from the University of Cambridge. If you can’t escape completely say you’re stuck on a train at least move as far away as possible. Your chance of catching it decreases the further you are from the source.

Ban the buffet

If there’s an outbreak in your area, it might be worth avoiding buffet restaurants for a while, “On cruise ships it’s been shown that communal serving implements are one of the most common ways the bug is passed on” says Goodfellow. It’s not surprising as so many people touch them, then put their hands close to their mouths.             Admittedly, this advice isn't vital for everyone. For most people, getting norovirus is unpleasant and an inconvenience but not dangerous. However, Goodfellow says the elderly or people whose immune systems are compromised should be careful, as the virus can hang around for weeks or months in some people. 

Fruitful remedies

One of the reasons it's hard to find a cure for norovirus is that it doesn't grow in petri dishes. But studies using water infected with the bug found grape seed extract damaged the virus. Pomegranate and cranberry juice have also shown promise in test tube trials.

Grape seed extract damaged the virus

Take probiotics

Probiotic drinks containing Shirota bacteria won't stop people getting sick, but trials at Japan's Juntendo University found it did reduce by a day the amount of time symptoms lasted.

Forget alcohol hand gels

They don't work against Norovirus. In fact, in studies in the US, workplaces that used hand gels as their prime sterilizing method were almost three times as likely to get hit by an outbreak as those where staff were encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water. Wash regularly - and always after visiting the bathroom or before eating. Use soap, and scrub for long Pomegranate and cranberry juice have also shown promise in test tube trials. enough to count slowly to 15. Dry your hands thoroughly. 

Forget alcohol hand gels

Eat more garlic 

Allicin, the active ingredient in garlic, is known to kill viruses similar to norovirus. Leading experts suggest it could protect against the big nasty, too. According to researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina, in the US, to ensure your garlic is at its most potent, peel a clove and leave it exposed to the air for 15 minutes and then eat it raw. 

Isolate utensils 

If someone at home does come down with the virus, give them a separate set of utensils to use cups, plates, spoons, forks - and also towels, while the bug lasts. The virus can be caught from hand contact and it can hang around on hard surfaces and objects such as towels for up to two weeks. In fact, there was a case in the US recently where a girls' soccer team caught it from eating a packet of lollies kept near someone who was sick! 

Say it with bleach

Bleach, bleach and bleach some more. For that same reason, when the outbreak is over clean the whole bathroom and the sufferer's utensils thoroughly. "Disinfectant normally isn't strong enough to kill the bug," says Goodfellow. "Only bleach will work."         

If you have to clean up body fluids, University of New South Wales experts suggest wearing gloves and a face mask to reduce your risk of infection.           

Finally, remember that the sick person is still contagious for as long as 48 hours after the symptoms stop, so they should stay at home for the duration. And if a work colleague returns to work after only three days of being sick, treat them cautiously.

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