Norovirus: What it is and how it's detected? -, GA News Weather & Sports

Norovirus: What it is and how it's detected?

(Source: Ivanhoe Newswire) (Source: Ivanhoe Newswire)

RALEIGH, NC (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - As many as 21 million people a year are sickened by the norovirus. But as contagious as it is, there are still a lot of questions surrounding how it’s transmitted.

We know it is shed in fecal matter, but when someone with the norovirus vomits, do they release the virus into the air, and is it able to float around? In order to answer those questions, researchers built a vomiting device.

It may not be the most glamorous study, but researchers are learning a lot about something that has only been studied a little.

Lee-Ann Jaykus, PhD, Professor of Food Sciences & Microbiology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh says, “We needed to know about projectile vomiting because that is very characteristic of a norovirus illness. For example, how much vomit comes out when you throw up?”

To answer that and a lot of other gross questions, Jaykus turned to a gastroenterologist, a virologist and an environmental engineer.

Dominic Libera, PhD Student at North Carolina State University admits, “At first I thought it was kind of a joke, but they were serious.”

And then they turned to YouTube.  Jaykus explains, “When we got into it, we figured out that there was really not a lot known about the physics — the physiology of vomiting.”

Eventually, they were able to create a machine that could simulate the pressure, viscosity and volume of vomit. And, using a harmless bacterial virus that behaves like norovirus, they found, “A lot of virus is released when you vomit. And it doesn’t take very much to make you sick,” Jaykus says.

And unlike the flu virus, the norovirus can stick around for up to six weeks and withstand temperatures of up to 140 degrees. Jaykus says, knowing what contributes to the spread of norovirus can lead to better measures in preventing it.

The best defense against the norovirus is hand washing with soap and also using anti-bacterial gel with a 95 percent alcohol content. To clean infected surfaces use a solution of five to 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water.

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