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Fighting an intestinal virus starts at home

Tuesday - 2/28/2012, 5:50am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

FAIRFAX, Va. - A nasty intestinal virus that students and staff at area schools are experiencing can be prevented. All that's needed is soap and water and some elbow grease.

About 100 students and staff members at Willow Springs Elementary School went home Friday and crews scoured the school over the weekend. Other schools also have experienced stomach viruses.

Experts believe it could be the highly contagious Norovirus.

Doctors say the best defense against any stomach bug may start in the home.

Dr. Peter Troell, an epidemiologist from the Fairfax County Health Department, offers this advice:

  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before eating them and make sure seafood is properly cooked.
  • Wash your hands for about 20 seconds using soap and get in between your fingers.
  • If you are sick don't prepare food. That will just spread the virus.
  • If someone else in the house is sick, look for surfaces that person may have touched in the kitchen and the bathroom..
  • Don't forget the clothes of someone who is sick. Use gloves while handling them and wash with detergent at the maximum time cycle. And machine dry them.

Troell says the virus can spread as long as 24 hours after the person who was sick starts to feel normal.

"We do recommend that they clean with a bleach solution all the contact surfaces and touched surfaces," he says.

He says gastrointestinal viruses do live on surfaces pretty well.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)