Viruses are tiny, often highly contagious pathogenic agents which cause disease.
Viruses can be spread between hosts in different ways such as through:
- bodily fluids – for example, HIV
- the air – for example, influenza
- ingestion – for example, norovirus
Unlike bacteria, viruses are not technically considered living organisms. Norovirus can survive and remain infectious in foods and the environment for prolonged periods of time and can often survive under harsher conditions than bacteria.
How norovirus spreads
Norovirus can contaminate food and water and enters the body by being ingested and inhaled through the mouth or nose. Norovirus causes infection once it has reached the gut.
It can also spread through contact with the faeces or vomit of an infected person. Norovirus can remain infectious in the environment for several months.
To prevent you from passing norovirus on to your family and friends via the food you’re preparing, it’s vital that you follow good personal hygiene practices.
It’s also essential that you are careful about cleaning and avoiding cross-contamination when transporting, preparing and storing food.
To stop norovirus spreading:
- wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before preparing or eating food
- handle food carefully in your kitchen
- wash chopping boards and utensils
- clean surfaces properly
Viruses such as norovirus cannot multiply in food, but they can survive there for long periods of time. Outbreaks of norovirus have been caused by food handlers, contaminated oysters and fresh produce such as berries and salad.