Oh, norovirus. The nausea. The stomach pain. The puking and diarrhea – sometimes at the very same time. It’s a virus that’s pretty much the bane of every parent’s existence, especially when your kids are young and they seem to catch it once or twice a year, and can almost never make it to the toilet on time.
It’s just freaking miserable, for everyone involved, and I think we all would do pretty much anything to stop it from entering our homes – or our intestines. (Yes, the way you catch it is the fecal-oral route, and you can use your imagination to figure out what that means. Apologies for the visual.)
Sadly, there is no vaccine for norovirus. The only saving grace is that the worst symptoms generally only last a day or two, and unless you become severely dehydrated or have an underlying medical condition, you will probably come out of the whole experience just fine.
If you are like me, and have spent way too much time thinking and observing this little bug and the way it wrecks havoc in your community and family at least once a season, you may have noticed something weird. It seems like there are some people who seem to always catch the bug, and others who just don’t – at least not as much, or with as severe symptoms.
Take my husband and me, for example. For as long as I’ve known him, if he catches the norovirus, he’ll be puking his brains out all night. Me? I will get a little fever and feel like shit, but I’ll rarely puke. And that’s if I even get it at all – I have been lucky enough not to catch the bug on more than one occasion when it’s ripped through my home.
Well, it turns out that this may actually be a thing. Norovirus might affect different individuals in different ways, according to science. And it all has to do with blood types.
As you might know, there are four principal blood types (O, A, B, and AB). According to research – cited by Mount Sinai Hospital and The New York Times, and published in the Journal of Virology – the way you react to norovirus exposure might have something to do with the blood type you were born with.
Yup, according to researchers, folks with type O blood are most likely to get sick if they are infected with the virus. People with B and AB blood are less likely to get sick, or at least will have fewer or less severe symptoms.
The reason? Type O peeps have a receptor in their saliva that norovirus can attach to more easily. Sort of fascinating – and, ummmm, kind of gross?
This doesn’t mean that non-type O people are forever protected from the virus – not at all. It’s just that their blood type might offer them a bit of protection, at least in some cases.
It’s definitely a very interesting piece of research, and I bet you’re trying to figure out if it applies to your own experience or not. In my case, my husband – the one who pukes his brains out whenever he catches norovirus – is indeed type O. I’m type A, which isn’t the blood type least likely to get sick, but I do notice that I tend to catch a milder version of norovirus than my type O husband.
Of course, one or two case studies doesn’t prove much when it comes to the scientific method. Still, it’s interesting and worthy of consideration.
However, according a 2010 study released by the CDC, the whole theory may be bunk anyway. Their study found no added protections with people who have type B blood. They found that the virus infects people equally, regardless of blood type.
Still, the original research is from reputable sources, so you can decide for yourself how much you want to believe or take the research to heart. Either way, even if your blood type might offer you protection from the virus, your best bet is to practice good hygiene to keep yourself protected.
As the CDC explains, norovirus can be passed through human contact, touching contaminated surfaces, and eating foods contaminated with the virus. To keep safe, you should:
– Wash your hands frequently
– Clean any fruits or vegetables thoroughly before eating
– Cook foods (especially shellfish) well before consuming
– Stay home for at least two days after being sick, so you won’t spread the virus to others
– Avoid food prep for two days after being sick.
Oh, and make sure to douse your house in bleach, which is pretty much the only cleaner proven to actually kill norovirus.
But, as much as we all want to keep those nasty bugs away at all costs – and are all wishing we had some magic layer of protection that may or may not exist – the fact is that norovirus is extremely common and extremely contagious.
20 particles of norovirus are all it takes to make someone sick, and one tablespoon of vomit contains 15 million viruses! UGGHHHHHH.
For most of us, the best thing we can do is keep our fingers and toes crossed that we don’t get it more than once a season. Oh, and I did I mention the bleach? Spray that shit everywhere. Drown your damn house in it.