As if everyday life isn't enough of to make us emetophobics a nervous wreck all the time....norovirus season makes me want to check myself into a mental hospital. Not only because it makes me a crazy paranoid basket case (even more than normal) but also because an isolated room with minimal contact to the outside world and all it's germ carrying people sounds incredibly appealing.
So here's the thing...I wrote the above paragraph one morning before work, saved it and left. I do that a lot. When an idea comes I'll just start writing even if it's only a few sentences to get me going. Anyway, I wrote that paragraph and went to work. When I got there I found out our morning cook had gone home early because he was on the verge of throwing up....again. Another one of our cooks had been out the day before but had shown up that day. He he said that he too had been throwing up yesterday and lost about 8lbs. My mind instantly raced back to how 2 days prior my friend and coworker had complained of her stomach hurting all day and the next day she told me she threw up once when she got home. We had chalked up her stomach issues to some sort of ulcer, caffeine fueled thing but now I knew that 3 people, 3 days in a row could only mean one thing....norovirus!!
I instantly went into survival mode. That doesn't mean breaking out a gun or shank...or a cross bow if you're Daryl Dixon (I <3 him)....no.....in my world it means breaking out apple cider vinegar. (I'll explain why later on in this post) Mind you I had only been at work and clocked in for maybe 4 minutes and I was running to our store room for the gallon jug of vinegar. I went and found and our little plastic dressing PC cups, lined them up and started pouring shots of it for anyone who wanted to partake. I was kind of a pusher....but I meant well. Who the hell wants the pukes...I mean really?
Everyone was a champ....they downed it with sour looks on their face. One person even said "Oh my god Whitney...it tastes like my mothers cucumber salad." I thought that was pretty funny.
I went on about my day only slightly anxious. I felt better that the current culprit of the bug was gone and that I had at least done SOMETHING to try and contribute to stopping its spread. I was a little on edge but able to function pretty normally.
Through the grapevine I heard that he was out the entire weekend as well. I was just happy to be off work and out of the incubator of sickies for a few days. Come Monday when I walked in I instantly surveyed the kitchen as I opened my locker. I saw him at he sink washing his hands and thought "Phew....he must be feeling better...we're all good" I was wrong. He didn't feel better and he looked kinda rough too. I guess he even told a supervisor he didn't think he should be there but they told him they didn't have a replacement and that he needed to stay. Now I wasn't there for that conversation...so I can't vouch for it but I wouldn't doubt it for a second. Those are the kinds of things that happen when you work for people who are terrified of ever having to do more than just stand there and watch as the rest of us deal with everything as they get paid 3-4x more than us....but that's another post.
So he stayed. And I was a flippin WRECK! I felt jittery nervous all day long and tried to avoid him at all costs. Most days because I do prep and I'm in my own little world I spend most of my day working by myself in a corner in the back of the kitchen....and I like it that way. Of course today of allllll days I had to use the deep fryer for hours on end which meant working right next time him. Like literally....RIGHT here. Shoot me.
I kept anticipating his movements. Everytime he moved relatively quickly I would back up and be ready to make a run for it. It sucks because your stuck in this place where you are trying to avoid this person and their inevitable sickness at all costs...but you CAN'T look away! I must know whats going on with them at all times. It's not being able to take your eyes off a card accident....it just sucks you in. He kept putting his hands on the table, putting his head back, closing his eyes, and breathing deeply. That is not a good sign at all!!! That is the sign of someone holding back their yacks. He would look over and say "I know I'm making you nervous." (no shit!) "But don't worry....I'll run for it."
Here's what people don't understand. Yes, by no means do I ever want to see, hear, or smell you puke. EVER! But it's also way more than that. At that point it was way past just the fear of him vomiting at any moment....it was the fact that he was breathing my air. I know that totally sounds like stuck up bitch....but I mean that he was breathing his nastiness all day around me and all the people I surround myself with 40 hours a week and touching all the same surfaces. It was more than I could handle. I kept having to run over to my coworker Stacey and vent. I probably went to her about 14 times saying " I can't take this.....oh my god I can't take this."
That very same day all this was happening at work a friend of mine posted on Facebook that they went to work but they were still throwing up. Dealing with it on my own end and knowing that there are other people out there doing the same and just showing up to work with an incredibly contagious sickness such as this honestly makes me angry. Yep. Angry. Maybe what I'm about to say is rude. Honestly though.....I don't care. In the first post I wrote about living with emetophobia I talked about how the paralyzing fear that comes with having a phobia can make you seem cold, uncompassionate, and down right mean sometimes. While this is true and plays into my next statement....I also think my thoughts have a lot of valid points to it.
I want to scream at them....Get the fuck out of here! Nobody wants you here! I think that knowingly showing up to work while throwing up from the stomach flu is not only gross it is rude, inconsiderate, and frankly irresponsible. It's not a small case of the sniffles....you're not throwing up from a night of drinking...you're throwing up because you have a very contagious virus that you are now exposing all your coworkers too. Way to fuckin go!!! How am I not right here? Who is going to say...yea sure.....show up to work....puke all over the place....and spread it around.....we're all good with it. No biggie.
Now moving on from my tantrum...I wanted to share with you some facts on norovirus. While they can be alarming at first I think it will ultimately help you as it did me. Ignorance isn't always bliss.
*Norovirus can be in your system up to 2 days before you even begin to show symptoms. Therefore you are contagious before you even know it. Exactly why practicing proper hygiene is important all the time.
*You are most contagious while showing symptoms as well as for 3 fulls days after symptoms subside. Remain cautious around those who you know have been sick, including that coworker who is back at work feeling "just fine"
* Norovirus is spread orally. Meaning it takes "ingestion" for you to catch it. It's spread through coming in contact with fecal matter or vomit that you ingest by means of eating food prepared but dirty infected hands, touching an infected surface and then biting your nails etc. Basically, WASH THOSE HANDS! When you a person vomits violently, microscopic bits of vomit (or fecal matter for that matter when it is violently coming out the other end) spray everywhere. Then live on surfaces just waiting for you to touch and pick it up. Yummy!
*80% of Norovirus outbreaks occur between November and April. This is exactly why it is called Norovirus season. It is believed to be caused by the cooler weather forcing people into closer quarters making its spread much quicker and easier. Keep your guard up during these months
*It is resistant to disinfectants. While I still promote the use of Lysol wipes and other similar products for the disinfecting of all sorts of nastiness...unfortunately they are no match for Norovirus. That pump of Purell won't do anything either. The only way to get rid of it is with a mix of bleach and water or physically washing it down the drain with soap and water. Wash those hands!!
*It can live in fabrics for up to 12 days. That's right folk....your blankies, couches, clothes, and any other fabrics latch onto that yuckiness for 12 whole days making it super easy to keep spreading to new victims. Wash any blankets, sheets, and clothes that came in contact with anyone infected. This is just a tip of my own, but if your sicky poo insists on laying on the couch consider covering it in layers of shhets and blankets that can be thrown in the washing machine since your couch can't be....yet. Invention idea??? ;)
So while reading those things scared me at first and made me want to strip naked and boil myself in bleach water....I realized it will only help me. The more you know the more chances you have of avoiding it yourself
Now for a few tips on prevention. Obviously you have probably picked up that handwashing is a big one. It always is when it comes to staying healthy but I have a few more for you. I haven't been sick with ANYTHING the entire year of 2013. I don't even recall being sick in 2012 either. Sometimes I feel sort of crappy but I am never full blown sick. I think I just feel crappy and tired because my body is fighting it off...never actually succumbing to it.
*Coconut Oil- Coconut oil is good for you for a variety of reasons. So many that it would take a whole post to talk about. One thing though in particular is that it boosts your immune system. I believe that the tablespoon of coconut oil that I put in my bulletproof coffee every morning plays a big role in keeping me healthy
*Apple Cider Vinegar- Apple cider vinegar is also one of the best things on the face of this planet for your health. Even better is that it can specifically help ward off Norovirus. Remember how earlier in the post I told you how I had my coworkers doing shots of ACV? Well, that's because it changes the PH levels in your stomach making it nearly impossible for the norovirus to survive. Once you are already sick with the virus it's not really effective but is great when used as a preventative measure. I've heard how some mothers SWEAR by this method for their children but use grape juice instead. They have their child drink a small glass every morning especially during norovirus season. I don't need the added sugar so the vinegar works just fine for me. Organic vinegar like Braggs brand is the best way to go. My sister has mixed the vinegar with a little crystal light for her kids and said it comes out tasting sort of like a sour patch kid. Cheers to that!
*Lemon- This last one isn't really about prevention of the virus, but about helping with nausea. I'm the type of person you gets nauseated anytime that I am anxious or overly tired....which has lead to many bouts of nausea at work. A friend if mine told me to start sucking on lemon wedges and whaddaya know....it works! I had to know why so I researched it. Apparently the excess saliva that comes with feeling a little nauseous only makes it worse. The natural tannins in the lemon have a drying effect in your mouth (much like red wine) which in turns drys up the excess saliva and helps ease the nausea. Pretty cool huh?
Well there ya have it....everything you never wanted to know about the stomach flu. I will always be trying my best to avoid this nasty bug....but I have to admit. If I ever do get it I would rather piss out my ass than throw up. So my plea to the universe is....If I have to get it, please send it south and not north. I would be forever grateful. K thanks.