Is a hypochlorous acid solution capable of killing Norovirus? It’s a commonly asked question, especially in the wake of typically yearly outbreaks of the virus every year. An understanding of Norovirus, as well as hypochlorous acid, will provide some answers.
Norovirus is a scientific term given to one type of viral infection. Norovirus causes gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea. Norovirus, in its most simplistic terms, is the stomach flu. Norovirus is common, but it is not the same as the flu (influenza), which primarily affects the respiratory system. Similar symptoms to Norovirus are caused by foodborne illness similar to salmonella, which also triggers vomiting, gastric discomfort, and diarrhea.
Norovirus is extremely contagious and affects people of all ages. In fact, only a few particles of the virus can make someone sick. It’s typically spread through direct contact with an infected person, by consuming contaminated food or water, or by touching a contaminated surface and then putting your unwashed fingers into your mouth.
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Two quick facts about Norovirus
- In one experiment conducted by the University of Arizona, a single swipe of a Norovirus tracer was placed on a doorknob. It quickly spread to bedrails, countertops, light switches, and push buttons – within 4 hours, nearly 60% of surfaces in that location were contaminated.
- About 1 in every 15 Americans contract the virus annually. Unfortunately, it also leads up to 800 deaths per year and over 60,000 hospitalizations, primarily due to dehydration.
While your body may build up some immunity to a number of viral infections, you can get Norovirus or stomach flu multiple times in your life because there are so many different types of the virus – and it tends to mutate.
The most common symptoms of Norovirus (stomach flu) include:
- Nausea, sometimes with vomiting but not always
- Stomach discomfort, often in combination with a burning sensation in the lower gut
- Low-grade fevers, headache, and body aches, which often make it difficult to differentiate it from the “regular” flu or influenza
The gastrointestinal symptoms are caused by inflammation of the stomach lining but more commonly the intestines, known as acute gastroenteritis. Such symptoms typically appear within 12 to 48 hours following exposure. On the good side, most people recover within three days without treatment, although some bouts can last between five and seven days. Key recommendations for Norovirus include:
- Hydration – especially important when diarrhea is present in order to reduce the risk of dehydration.
- Routine cleaning with products or agents that can kill germs and microbes when outbreaks of influenza and Norovirus occur.
Norovirus is nothing new. In fact, nearly 20 million people are affected by Norovirus every year. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they have the virus until symptoms appear.
While there is no direct treatment (vaccine or medication such as antibiotics) that cure Norovirus, you can take steps to reduce contagion by regularly cleaning surfaces and items in your home with disinfectants.
Can cleaning with hypochlorous acid killed Norovirus germs?
Hypochlorous acid solutions have shown some efficacy in killing or at least inactivating certain pathogens in animal research laboratories. A number of studies published in medical journals have resulted in the microbicide (specifically for killing microbes) effects of weak hypochlorous acid solutions on various microorganisms.
Hypochlorous acid is nothing new, and most similar disinfection solutions have been deemed non-toxic and safe for humans, used in medical arenas for over a century prior to the advent of antibiotics. Today, such cleaning solutions are used in commercial and home scenarios.
Think bleach, similar in regard to components in the chlorine family – as is hypochlorous acid. Research shows that it does prove effective in killing a number of fungal and bacterial spores and viruses.
Note: Solutions of hypochlorous acid are not intended for internal use, but only as a surface cleaner and disinfectant!
Some experimentation has shown that weak chlorine solutions are still utilized to kill the majority of Noroviruses. For example, a study performed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill produced findings that diluted solutions of hypochlorous acid containing as low as 20 mg/L can completely inactivate Norovirus germs on stainless steel and ceramic tile surfaces within five minutes.
Finding hypochlorous acid
The term ‘acid’ scares many, but homemade solutions are weak, similar to the amount of acid found in orange juice. However, finding actual “recipes” for making hypochlorous acid is challenging, so consumers are best off looking for it in the home-cleaning section of their local retail stores.
Hypochlorous acid a naturally occurring chemical in the body, produced by primarily white blood cells of our immune system. The immune system fights off bacteria and viruses, and also promotes wound healing. Hypochlorous acid has been used in healthcare scenarios for generations. In fact, it’s FDA approved and used as a food disinfectant and in organic crop production, effectively killing 99.9% bacteria.
Consumers can make their own solutions by purchasing tablets dropped into a sprayer with water, making it convenient and reducing guesswork or mixing chemicals. Some online comments online recommend using small amounts of bleach mixed with water or other substances, but mixing chemical compounds without knowing exactly what you’re doing is risky.
Hypochlorous acid solutions are also available in pre-mixed spray bottles by a number of manufacturers and can be found in places like home-improvement stores. Some forms of hypochlorous acid solutions can also be purchased on auction sites such as eBay, or found on Amazon, but as always, use caution and common sense when purchasing such substances online. A number of stores also carry some forms of hypochlorous acid, found in the household cleaning sections.
Note: Hypochlorous acid is perfectly safe for use when diluted, but can be dangerous when left in its concentrated form.
Components of hypochlorous acid in homemade scenarios can contain pure salt or chlorine, while others are composed of diluted suspensions of mercury oxide and water. However, before considering manufacture of your own homemade solution, be aware of potential stability and reactions of its components.
In conclusion, best practices recommend good hygiene and cleaning processes when Norovirus strikes your region. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about hypochlorous acid products or other bacterial or viral disinfectants that might help reduce your risk of contracting Norovirus.
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