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Norovirus Outbreak Traced to Reusable Grocery Bag

Study Underscores How Easily Norovirus Can Spread
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Grocery Tote Carried More Than Food continued...

The study is published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The first sick girl said she never touched the bag. So how did the virus get there?

Experts say viral particles likely floated over from the toilet.

"That certainly is an area of active research, involving the dynamics of vomiting, and how are particles dispersed when somebody vomits. There is a limited range, for sure, but exactly how far it is and what the level of risk is 10 feet away or 30 feet away. Certainly, in this case, it was plenty close to allow the virus to float over onto the bag," says Aron J. Hall, DVM, MSPH, of the CDC's division of viral diseases.

Disinfect Surfaces After Someone Gets Sick

In an editorial on the study, Hall says that it takes as little as 18 copies of a norovirus to make someone sick.

"It's among the most infectious viruses known to man," Hall tells WebMD.

"The amount of virus that it would take to get someone sick certainly cannot be seen with the naked eye, and definitely underscores the challenge of removing all potentially infectious virus from a grocery bag, in this case, or a bed rail in a hospital, or a doorknob in a nursing home," he says.

Researchers say the study highlights how easily the virus can travel and how long it can persist on the surfaces where it lands.

"This is a really underestimated route of transmission, and it's easy to fix," Repp says. "I don't know about you, but when I'm done with my clothes, I wash them when they're dirty. We should probably be washing our reusable bags, too."

According to the CDC, chlorine bleach is one of the few household cleaners that can kill norovirus. The agency recommends using 5 to 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water to clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.

"When cleaning an area after someone is ill, we need to not just be thinking about wiping down the toilet area. We need to think about the virus up in the air and landing on everything in that bathroom, and either throwing away or cleaning everything that was exposed," Repp says.

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