Nutrition Corner: Norwalk Virus and the flu — what to know

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret -

The media has our attention; the flu and Norwalk virus recently has hit the news. How can we prevent our families and ourselves from getting sick? First, here are a few facts about Norwalk Virus from USDA.

Noroviruses are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis (infection of the stomach and intestines) in the United States. Norovirus illness spreads easily and is often called stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis.

People who are infected can spread it directly to other people or can contaminate food or drinks they prepare for other people. The virus can also survive on surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus spread through contact with an infected person.

Norwalk Virus comes from produce, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods touched by infected food workers (salads, sandwiches, ice, cookies, fruit), or any other foods contaminated with vomit or feces from an infected person. Prevent Norwalk virus by washing hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after using the bathroom and before preparing food. If you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting, do not cook, prepare or serve food for others. Make sure you wash fruits and vegetables and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.

The media is also reporting flu illness and deaths related to the flu. The Center Disease Control first recommends getting the flu vaccine. If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

The CDC also encourages you to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Again, wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because germs spread this way. Like the recommendation to reduce the spread of Norwalk Virus, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.

Here is how to wash your hands so the germs slide off easily and are down the drain Get your family to use these proper handwashing techniques, too.

First, have a paper towel ready. If it is your home, consider changing over to disposable hand towels throughout the holidays. Next, wet hands under running warm water, as warm as you can stand it. Apply soap. Use enough soap to build up a good lather. Scrub backs of hands, wrists, under fingernails and between fingers for 20 seconds. Rinse hands under running warm water. This is the step when the germs come off your hands. Lastly, dry hands with paper towel. Remember to turn off the faucet with the paper towel. You do not want to pick up any more germs on your way out of the bathroom.

Remember, we cannot see the germs so it is important to scrub for 20 seconds then rinse under clean running water. Be wary of objects which can carry germs, like light switches, desktops, door handles — the list is endless.

For more information on Norwalk Virus, visit and the Flu, visit the website.

Meanwhile, here’s a good recipe for chicken soup.

Chicken Soup

6 cups broth

1 cup cooked chicken

1 cup uncooked rice or 2 cups noodles or 1/2 cup barley

2 cups vegetables (see ideas below)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley

Place cooked chicken, rice, and broth into a large saucepan and cover. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes. Add vegetables and seasonings. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Ideas: For vegetables, use any of the following: Canned vegetables such as green beans, navy beans, tomatoes, or mushrooms; frozen vegetables such as peas, lima beans, corn, broccoli, or cauliflower; fresh vegetables such as potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, or squash. Other seasonings you can use are bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and chili powder. Use beef broth and cooked beef or turkey broth and cooked turkey instead of chicken. Makes 8 -2 cup servings.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at