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Consumer Reports: How to avoid coming down with norovirus

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Diana WIlliams reports.

Chances are you or someone you know has gotten a stomach bug this winter.

There's also a chance it was a form of norovirus.

Outbreaks of the highly contagious illness have spiked over the last few months, with more than 21 million cases reported nationwide.

Consumer Reports talked to doctors for some advice on how to avoid getting sick.

Often associated with cruise ships and hospitals, norovirus spreads easily in confined spaces.

This year, it's forced schools and colleges all across the country to temporarily close.

"Often mistakenly called the stomach flu but not related to influenza, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, and occasionally fever," said Consumer Reports Medical Advisor Dr. Orly Avitzur.

You can get the illness anytime of the year but it's most common in the winter.

Norovirus spreads through fecal matter, contaminated food or coming into contact with someone who is sick with the virus.

"If you are close to someone who is vomiting you may get sick through aerosolized particles. If that happens you'll probably see symptoms within 12-48 hours," said Dr. Avitzur.

So what should you do to avoid it? Consumer Reports recommends washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 30 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling food. Hand sanitizers alone do not work.

Also, if someone in your home has gotten sick with norovirus, disinfect contaminated surfaces with a small amount of household bleach, dilluted with water. Wash linens, towels and clothes that might have been contaminated.

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