It’s normally around this time of the year that Norovirus is all over the newspapers, especially the ones lining your floor as you attempt to somehow catch the huge swathes of projectile vomit pouring forth from the gobs of your seemingly possessed family.
And once you come out the other end (pun only half-intended) you become like a Vietnam veteran, blinking at the sun and telling anyone who will listen of the ordeal you’ve lived through. I’ve already told seventeen people today, only three of which I knew.
‘It was like Apukealypse Now’, I say, congratulating myself on having a suitably rudimentary grasp on world history to be able to continue the Nam analogy from the sentence before. ‘In fact, if you think about it, Norovirus is like the Viet Cong in the 1970’s’, I persist as their eyes glaze over. ‘Completely invisible, practically indestructible and, given half a chance, determined to leave your Cu Chi tunnels in tatters’.
The epidemic is much worse when you have children, not least because they get first dibs on the bathroom. Which leaves you on your hands and knees, retching over a waste paper basket you didn’t get the chance to empty beforehand, jet washing the carpet with your own urine because the aforementioned kid has rendered your pelvic floor as stable as a rope bridge.
Oh the horror.
Norovirus is a Total Asshat
The trouble is, Norovirus is a crafty little so and so, capable of such wanton asshattery, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a genius evil overlord rather than a simple virus.
Despite having a genome of just nine protein-coding genes (us humans have around 20,000) somehow it is capable of breaking the lock on our cells, slipping in undetected, hacking our DNA and forcing our cells to make more Noroviruses which, within a day of infection, come flooding out of our cells and subsequently all available orifices.
It’s the Italian Job, only with poo particles instead of classic minis. Not even Ocean’s 1000 could pull off a heist that sophisticated, although George Clooney can have full access to my mouth and bottom should he ever wish to try.
I’m A Celebrity Virus, Get Me Out of Here
And as for that projectile vomiting thing? Most of the time you’re sick it’s the stomach saying ‘I need to get this out of here or it might kill me’. But with Norotwat, it’s ‘I’m a celebrity virus get me out of here….so I can live on in other hosts, mwahahahah!’
And just like the contestants off I’m a Celeb, once they make it out of your gastric jungle, you can’t move for them. They’re everywhere. On your TV. On the radio. All over your work surfaces. Because Norovirus is nothing if not numerous. A gram of faeces contains around five billion Norobellends. The number you need to ingest to get sick? Just 20.
That’s a mere soupcon of shite to cause a tsunami of the stuff. It’s like homeopathy, but where you’re puking your ring inside out rather than dropping completely useless pseudo-water onto your tongue.
So what the hell can you do?
How to Avoid Norovirus. Possibly.
Don’t be fooled into thinking a quick rub with your antibacterial hand gel will sort it. Norodickhead laughs in the face of most sanitising agents and tweaks the nose of standard cleaning fluids.
It can withstand freezing, dehydration, and temperatures up to about 60 degrees C, making it harder to kill than the rumour Melania Trump has a body double.
Under no circumstances should you step foot on a cruise ship during an epidemic. Nothing to do with the increased risk of contraction, but cruises are a very expensive way of giving up on life and you could just take yourself off to a Swiss Clinic and leave the rest to a cat charity instead.
If someone in your house is starting to show symptoms, bleach is your only friend. You will need to swill everything in that toxic corrosive chemical. Imagine you’re a serial killer covering your tracks, systematically wiping every surface before and after you touch it and then burning your own fingerprints off every time you need to consume food.
If you’re a bit lazy, like me, I’d suggest moving your entire house into a swimming pool and letting the chlorine do its job; but accept there’s the very real danger you’ll get a verucca sock in the face. And broken electrical equipment.
Or perhaps you could live in an iron lung for a couple of weeks, taking on food dripped into your mouth from a sterilised tube operated by remote control using a twitch in your eye.
Alternatively you can simply commit to touching nothing for as long as Noroscrewyou is doing the rounds. Consider covering everything with magnets and then wearing thimbles made from the polar opposite so that actual physical contact with anything becomes impossible.
If you absolutely must use your hands, then be sure to wash them. A cursory soaping is not enough. You need to imagine you’re a world-class brain surgeon scrubbing up before performing life-saving surgery on your only child. Yes it’s hard to turn a standard sink tap off using your elbows, but it’s easier than sobbing into a toilet whilst hot springs of bile spatter against the backs of your teeth.
Because unless scientists discover a vaccine (and this is currently a loooong way off) excellent hygiene is pretty much your only hope. Until then, to misquote Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket (yes, that is a Vietnam call-back because I have no idea how else to finish this) “we’re in a world of shit.”
Stay safe out there….
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[photo credit: theloushe inspired by a true story via photopin (license); photo credit: larrybobsf Green puke girl sticker via photopin (license); photo credit: NIAID Norwalk Virus via photopin (license)]