Norovirus serves as example of importance of good hygiene

By Brennen Hubbard[email protected] – Staff Writer
Recently, the norovirus spread through Asheville, causing people to come down with sudden flu-like symptoms.
Due to of the quick nature of the virus, Jay Cutspec, the director of the health and counseling center, urges students to practice good hygiene habits.
“For people that are well, it goes back to washing your hands and not sharing utensils or drinks because that’s how it is transmitted,” he said.
Elementary and high schools in the area dealt with an overwhelming amount of absences due to the contagious virus. According to Cutspec, UNC Asheville does not have the same volume of cases.
“I would say every day we have probably a couple of students come down with it,” he said. “We’ve had a reasonable number of cases, but it’s not something we’ve been concerned about or has flooded the health center.”
Though the virus becomes serious very quickly, it also has a short life span and typically only lasts between one to three days which makes it easy to identify, according to Cutspec.
“Normally how you know you have it, is it comes on very quickly,” he said. “Sometimes, regular stomach bugs develop over time. With the norovirus, people get very sick very quickly and then it goes away.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the symptoms of the norovirus are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, body aches and stomach cramps. There are no medications available to treat the virus and hand sanitizers are unable to protect against transmission, the website said.
According to Cutspec, the most important thing to do if you come down with the virus is drink water and be sure you are taking good care of yourself.
“If you’re throwing up or you have diarrhea a lot, that’s the most significant risk, so hydration is the most important thing,” he said. “Hydrate, rest and Tylenol if you are having any sort of aches and pains.”
According to Renee Bindewald, an UNCA alumna, this list does not compare to the toll the virus takes on your body.
“It’s not an illness you can sleep through and wake up on the other side being better. Your stomach is burning, your body is aching, you have cold chills and you feel clammy and gross,” she said. “It doesn’t stop.”
Bindewald said she spent a long night in the emergency room, and when informed there was no medication available to help, she went home and isolated herself to keep others from getting it.
“After I got out of the ER, I just went straight home,” she said. “It was probably the worst sickness I’ve ever had, and I had mono my freshman year.”
One student figured out how to keep himself from catching the virus, despite living in such close quarters to someone who came down with it.
According to Izaac Bacik, a sophomore at UNCA, his suitemate spent 24 hours holed up in their bathroom due to the debilitating virus, which lasted seven days.
“The really severe symptoms were one to three days, but the flu-like symptoms lingered for longer,” he said.
According to Bacik, he and his suitemates spent time disinfecting the entire suite to the best of their ability.
“I found out from the health center Clorox was not very effective against the virus. We needed something stronger,” he said. “We literally dumped bleach all over our bathroom.”
Due to communal living spaces on college campuses, Cutspec said he remains hopeful the warmer weather will bring a decline in the number of cases among students.
“We always like to see the weather get nice because students are outside and they’re doing other things,” he said. “They’re not around each other as much, which for the spread of germs is good.”
Soon after Bindewald was feeling better, she said she sanitized her apartment from bottom to top to ensure she would not catch the virus again.
“After I went back to work, I wiped down my whole house and washed everything; towels, sheets, blankets, clothes.” she said.
For more information about the virus, check the CDC website rather than watching the news to ensure you are getting accurate information, Cutspec said.
To avoid the virus in the residence halls, in addition to keeping up with hygiene practices, Bacik said he recommends investing in disinfectants.
“Buy a bleach spray or bleach mixture and make sure you’re disinfecting the door knobs and as much as you want to, don’t try to comfort the person who has it,” he said. “It’s really contagious.”