Diarzilla: Surviving the Norovirus
by Rudy Sanchez, B.Sc.Pharm., RPH
In the movie Godzilla, the scary monster rises from the sea and everyone runs. With the attack of Norovirus (NV), aka Diarzilla, people run…to the bathroom.
I get to talk about poop. Yeah!!
Projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea unabated for three days is no laughing matter. It will literally bring you to your knees. There are about 21 million norovirus cases per year in North America and it is often confused with food poisonings. Understanding the virus gives us tools on how to deal with the disease.
How do you know its Diarzilla? The mark of the virus is its virulence and speed. One day you are on top of the world and the next day you are in deep..umm.. doodoo (scientific term). This will last pretty much continuously for 20 to 60 hours and then it will stop. The gestation period is two to three days so in that time, somebody in the household will catch it. There are ways to avoid this.
The symptoms are similar to bacterial food poisoning, but there are few differences. If it is a bacteria (for example, salmonella), you will be the only one sick and it will abate after 48 hours.
In both cases, loss of body electrolytes lead to other symptoms of fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, stomach cramps and dizziness. This is of special importance for infants and children who can get dehydrated just like that! You did not see me snap my fingers, but I did.
|Cruise ships dump raw sewage into the ocean|
Another thing to keep in mind is that NV is a nosocomial virus. This super fancy word means that is incubates in closed settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, cruise ships, schools, and restaurants. All it takes is for one person to start the contamination pattern, such as a worker not washing hands after going to the bathroom. In cruise ship epidemics, the virus has been traced to shellfish or oysters which pick up the virus from sewage waters running into the ocean. Maybe it’s a cycle of cruise ships dumping sewage into the ocean. How many cruise ships get norovirus epidemics? About 14 a year.
Since oysters filter the water, they are natural carriers of the virus.
|78% of surfaces in a hospital room were infected|
What happens? The virus spreads by fecal-oral route…fecal matter carrying the virus makes it way into your gut either through food (contaminated by a food handler) or more simply, by your hands touching your mouth. In a study by Verani (2014) on contamination of surfaces in a hospital setting, 78% of surfaces were found contaminated. This included counter tops, door handles, bed rails, telephones, floors, windowsills… all of these outside the bathroom. A person flushing the toilet creates an aerosol of droplets which contaminate surfaces. Once these droplets spread on hard surfaces (floor, sink and counter top), they are carried outside to the room.
A study by Verhoef (2010) traced two genotypes of the virus and determined that 21% of all outbreaks are from food borne sources (for example, shellfish) with the rest being from fecal transport. This implies that the virus itself mutates when inside the human host. The study shifts the focus on hygiene measures as the main consideration in controlling spread of the infection.
The virus is one of the smallest particles known: 38 nanometers. To get an idea of how small this is, a stack of 1,215 noroviruses is the thickness of tissue paper. A red blood cell is 7,000 nanometers across, relatively huge. The small size of the virus presents a problem. The dust mask you bought at the hardware store will not filter the virus. Even an N100 mask, the highest density available, filters down to 300 nanometers. This virus is very very problematic because of its size.
|Cursory disinfectant with household cleaners will not kill the virus|
Toilet seats are often made from injection molded polystyrene which are porous. (I hope you don’t have a wooden toilet seat, even worse) The 38 nm virus imbeds into the plastic material of the toilet seat and is small enough to stay in the plastic even with cleaning. A cursory wiping with disinfectant is far from an effective method. Who in his right mind would remove the toilet seat (not that easy) and soak in hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes (expensive) and then re-install it (inconvenient).
But there is an alternative: of course there is. Would we stand stymied by 38 nanometers? Of course not! We are the smarter species! Smarter maybe, but I’m not sure if we are as cool ..viruses are pretty amazing.
|No toilet seat... no problem|
Crazy solution to the problem: The toilet bowl itself is made from vitreous china...quite dense and guess what? Non porous. The solution is this: remove the toilet seat. Then the next step is to get used to cold unforgiving china touching your derriere. I said we are smart, I did not say we are gracious.
|Points of viral entry: mouth, nose, eyes|
The virus enters your body through the nose, mouth, eyes. It can not enter the skin, unless the skin is broken. It will adhere to the skin and if you touch your eyes, nose and mouth, it gets you that way. The virus begins to multiply in the small intestine, taking 12 to 48 hours to do so. The invasion triggers an immune response, first with T cells and then B cells. The Beta cells will kill the virus but the key strategy is to have good immunity, The immune response also triggers the “dump-and-flee” response which protects the body by vomit and diarrhea.
So when you are throwing up with projectile vomit and sitting on the cold seat-less toilet with rocket poop, you have to repeat this mantra:
I am fighting this norovirus
Getting it out is desirous
In three days I will feel much better
Damn you …infected oyster!
|The virus sheds for about thirty days|
In a study on the shedding dynamics of the norovirus, Kirby (2014), researchers measured stool viral titers over a 35 day period and found that the virus was shed in stools up to three weeks after the resolution of symptoms. This indicates that preventative measures to reduce transmission have to be maintained for this long after the remission of symptoms of the last member of the household.
Now we get to the reason you have read this post: How to prepare for Diarzilla.
Diarzilla Preparedness Kit
Kit Number 1: Nobody is Sick, But the Neighbours Are
At this point, nobody is sick, but you have heard of some people in the neighborhood getting the norovirus. Maybe a nursing home or hospital ward has been quarantined. You get prepared by strengthening your immunity. Start by taking 20 billion CFU’s of probiotics a day starting now. If no infections happen, then it still helps your immunity. Makes sure that you are eating a 2:1 ratio of vegetables to everything else. Take immunity builders such as echinacea, elderberry, goldenseal and astragalus everyday (pick one or a combination).
Take Vitamin C, 500mg , three times a day.
|say no to that invitation to the clam bake|
Refuse the invitation to the neighbor's oyster-bake-luau-get-together for a month.
|How many people used that toilet?|
Try not to visit prisons, day cares, train stations, airports, submarines, nursing homes, hospitals and avoid public washrooms if at all possible.
Review and practice proper hand washing technique by watching this YouTube video. Remember that the food handlers of the household have to wash their hands all the time, before handling food and after going to the washroom.
Let’s tackle cleaning the bathroom. First remove any clutter, bottles, rubber duckys, and those decorative soaps-that-you-will-never-use from Aunt Matilda. There should be no clutter to catch or trap viral colonies. After your bathroom is bare, clean it thoroughly as normal, but this is just the “pre-clean”. Then comes the real cleaning: disinfect by spraying all surfaces (toilet, counters, walls , floors, window sills) with 3% hydrogen peroxide, allowing it to dry off completely. Then spray it again with a 50% solution of vinegar and water, again allowing it to dry off completely.
|think of all this clutter as virus traps|
Always take a shower after you clean your bathroom, putting your bacteria-splattered clothes and towels in a plastic bag to wash separately, and to finish off, disinfect the shower. Singing La Donna Y Mobile at the top of your lungs finishes off the job with aplomb.
Get in the habit of using your dishwasher for all utensils and plates within 24 hours. Include your toothbrushes, plus any glasses that you use in the bathroom, in your dishwasher load.
Kit Number 2: When Diarzilla Claims the First Victim
Not counting the Kenny G Relaxation Vol. 1 and II tapes, here is a complete list of supplies that you may need:
Wide aluminum foil, one box
Nitrile gloves from Costco
Two boxes of disposable unscented baby wipes in plastic bins
Ski mask or diving mask
N91 or N100 face masks from Midland Tools
Heavy Duty Ziploc bags, 1 box
5 gallon bucket with lid, with handle (available at paint stores)
2 spray bottles, marked V-Mix and HP-Mix
Disposable coveralls (sold at paint shops or at Midland Tools)
Vinegar , diluted 50:50 with water to make V-Mix
Hydrogen Peroxide 3% to make HP-Mix
Distilled Witch Hazel, alcohol free ( for hemorrhoids)
Activated Charcoal Capsules
Probiotics 20 Billion
Broth ingredients (soup bones, celery, ginger, inions, garlic)
Homeopathic for diarrhoea: Aloe 200CH, Arsenicum 30CG
Homeopathic for vomiting: Ipeca 200CH, Nux Vomica 200CH
Replace lost electrolytes by dissolving one packet of Hydralyte in a glass of water. One glass per 50 pounds of body weight per day. This is very important in children since their body fluid volume is smaller. This prevents fatigue, dizziness and loss of energy. The general rule, one throw up: one glass. One poopdemeanor: two glasses.
Activated Charcoal will help reduce diarrhea and scrub the gut, two capsules three times a day for three days. This is really helpful at the first stages and helps vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea and cramps.
Homeopathic Aloe and Arsenicum are for diarrhea. Take two pellets of Aloe every 2 hours on day 1, change to Arsenicum on day 2 following the same dose, revert to Aloe on day 3, Arsenicum again on day 4. For children, the dose is one pellet each time instead of 2 pellets.
Homeopathic Ipeca and Nux Vomica are for vomiting. Take two pellets of Ipeca every 2 hours on day 1, change to Nux Vomica on day 2 following the same dose, and revert to Ipeca on day 3, Nux Vomica again on day 4. For children, the dose is one pellet each time instead of 2 pellets.
|BRAQ Diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, quinoa (substituted for toast)|
The recommended food follows the acronym BRAQ. This is a variation of the BRAT diet (T for toast). This is a bland diet consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce and quinoa. This maintains a minimum level of energy while allowing easy digestion. In cooking your rice and quinoa, use bone broth. Bone broth is prepared by boiling for two hours, one pound of bones (chicken, bison, beef or deer) in one gallon of water to which two tablespoonfuls of vinegar is added. Add celery, ginger, onion and garlic as well.
How to vomit: the best technique is to vomit directly into a Ziploc bag, holding it close to your mouth. Immediately, close the Ziploc bag and throw it into your 5 gallon bucket and close the lid. Once a day, this bucket is to be directly emptied into a garbage bag (outside the house) and thrown away. The bucket is disinfected by spraying with the HP-Mix , and then V-Mix (first hydrogen peroxide and then vinegar).
|unscented baby wipes in vinegar or hydrogen peroxide soak|
How to disinfect the skin after throwing up? Take the box of unscented baby wipes and dump 500mls of hydrogen peroxide in one, label it HP Wipes. The other one gets 500 mls of 50% vinegar solution and this gets labelled V Wipes. These hand wipes are your sanitation wipes. They are used to wipe hands, mouths, bums, legs. For hard surfaces, the spray method instead. The wipes are used in sequence: HP Wipes, wait for 5 minutes and then V Wipes after.
For wiping after diarrhea, wipe with toilet paper nromally , then disinfect the skin. The HP wipes will not sting (for wiping bums), but the V Wipes will, so this can be skipped for that area. In the case of hemorrhoids developing, then you can substitute witch hazel for the V wipes to reduce pain and swelling. It still needs to be preceded by the HP wipes. After the first few bouts of diarrhea, the burning can be relieved this way.
Back to the seat-less toilet:
|This is your friend|
Remember that flushing causes dispersion of droplets. What are we going to do about the toilet flush if we have removed the seat? Solution: remove the cover portion of the toilet seat and wrap it with aluminum foil. If you use the wide foil, it should cover it without any seams. Before you flush the toilet, cover the toilet with your aluminum clad seat. Then you can flush away. The foil can be removed and replaced on a regular basis. Foil is cheap.. do not skimp. Remember to fold dirty side in, clean side out. These are things than your grandmother taught you, just reviewing.
Here is a very important piece of the puzzle: the sick person is quarantined to eat in his/her room. The bathroom that he/she uses is not used by any other person. All plates are soaked in V-Mix in a bucket before transport. This batch is disinfected in the dishwasher as a single load. As noted, this has to be maintained for 30 days, since the virus is still shedding after the symptoms are gone.
Continuity of the sanitation cycle (dirty to dirty, clean to clean) has to be maintained for 30 days. Breaking this continuity allows transmission out of the loop or into the loop. Breaking this 30 day rule is one of the simplest causes of norovirus spreading.
Just repeat: I am more smarter than this virus. I mean, am smarter than this virus.
Who gets to clean the bathroom?
|Meet T101 , The Terminator, not afraid of muck, yuck and the color brown|
Obviously, not the patient. We will call this person T-101 (this is the name of the robot in Terminator.. unfazed by poop)
T-101 puts on the garb: coveralls (from experience, disposable coveralls withstand washing up to 7 times, bit hang to dry only), shower cap, nitrile gloves, diving mask. He has a full roll of paper towels, his two spray bottles of HP (hydrogen peroxide 3%) and V (vinegar 50%). He goes in the bathroom and disinfects it as above, disinfecting the seat-less toilet, garbage can, tub, shower, counters, floors, walls and doorknobs. Spray everything with HP-V (one after the other. All the garbage goes into the 5 gallon bucket which is taken outside directly to the trash. T-101 jumps into the shower and puts all his/her clothes, including the towel and shower curtain, into a garbage bag. The laundry is immediately done as a separate load.
Diarzilla Kit No. 3: The Whole Family is Sick
Things get serious if the infection was not controlled by the quarantine measures. The dishwasher is used everyday and each person’s cutlery and plate is marked with a tagging system so these are not shared. The bathroom used by the people who are sick is separated from the bathroom of the people are not sick.
Remember the 30 day quarantine for the last person sick, as the members of the household are carriers for all this time, even though they are asymptomatic.
|you get attached to the bathroom/prison after a while|