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Is it Flu or is it Noro?

Knowing the difference between Flu and Norovirus is critical especially at this time of the year – it’s both Flu season and Noro season.

It’s the time of the year when employee sick calls always increase. This is a bad flu season – on track to be one of the worst in a decade or longer. How do you tell Flu from Noro? Do we need to handle them differently? 

Both are viruses. Both affect millions of people each year. Both have really quick onsets – you feel fine and then you don’t. Here's what you need to know.


What you need to know about Flu vs. Noro:

Flu always has a respiratory component – cough, runny nose and chest congestion. Noro does not. Both Flu and Noro can have vomiting and diarrhea, stomach cramps and general GI distress. And yes (horribly), it’s possible to have both a touch of the flu and Noro. Generally, someone with the flu has a high fever and a cough while someone with Noro has more severe vomiting and diarrhea. 


Here’s what to do if you have an employee (or more than one) diagnosed with Flu:

Keep them out of work until fever free for at least 24 hours. That’s a fever of less than 100.3 F that stays below that temp after they’ve stopped taking Tylenol or Advil. It would be nice to say someone can’t come back while still coughing but the cough from the flu can last weeks. As long as they aren’t not coughing uncontrollably, you’ll need to allow them to return to work. But be sure you’re properly cleaning with a good disinfecting product throughout the day when you have employees or guests sick with the flu. 

Here’s what to do if you have a guest or employee with Noro:

Noro virus is incredibly infectious A single employee vomiting in the kitchen can get hundreds of guests sick. A single sick guest can easily get other guests and your employees sick. Key points about Noro:

  • QUAT sanitizer doesn’t kill Noro. A mild bleach solution or peroxide cleaner does. Wipe down everything and if appropriate, toss prepped food. 
  • Noro is infectious for a day before the symptoms start (can’t do much about that) and then for about three days after symptoms end. So someone with suspected Noro needs to stay out of work or from food handling for three full days. Yes, we know… that’s a long time!
  • When there’s Noro in the area, using an appropriate Noro killing cleaner on places where people put their hands, and especially bathroom touch points (toilet, stall, sink and door handles) throughout the day will help prevent it from spreading.
  • You don’t need to ask for a doctor’s note for Noro. Unless the person needs medical attention (the symptoms don’t go away or they become very dehydrated), most people don’t need to see a doctor.

The bottom line:

The bottom line is that both Flu and Noro can dramatically impact your operations and responding quickly and proactively will help your team recover. And often proper handwashing is your first, last and best defense against either.

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