Thursday, April 9, 2015

Still Recovering: A New, Mutant Strain of Norovirus? Maybe not.

Well, with each new incidence of violent food-borne illness this is what the victim is liable to believe. It actually takes a retrospective of one's history of food poisoning to put any given incident or event in a proper context. For me, it means using a V-D index which gives the violence of the two main forms of illness emissions on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the most violent. (e.g. '10' for V could denote projectile events on a par with those seen in 'The Exorcist')

For me the worst ever occurred in December, 1971, in Barbados, while serving in Peace Corps. I had been infected with salmonella that left me reeling for 10- days and for which the only solution was tetracycline which the Peace Corps doc provided. Effect: lost 25 pounds.

V-   9.0

D-   9.0

To say the expurgations were unreal would be putting it mildly. The culprit? (Always important to try to figure out): a bottle of chocolate milk purchased at Bridgetown's main market on Fairchild St.  Looked fine. Smelled fine. Tasted fine. But false cultural assumptions led me to believe the same care would be taken in providing such products as in the U.S. Wrong! No one told me that vendors simply washed out used,  tossed away bottles and refilled them with fresh milk!

Then there were the 'one-offs' - likely not a result of food poisoning but food allergy or susceptibility to one or more components in it.

Columbia, MD, November, 1996

V - 8.0

Occurred just after eating a delicious casserole of Indian food specially prepared by a good friend of ours. I was the only person affected.

Las Vegas, May, 2006

V - 8.0

Occurred just after eating two chocolate chip cookies and carton of milk purchased at the Stratosphere min-mart. Traced to possible moldy cookies - way past the expiry date- and which I ought to have paid attention to if I hadn't been so hungry and desperate for some grub.

Jan. 30-31, 2011 (written about in a blog post at the time)

V- 8.0

D- 7.5

Case of basic food poisoning from eating German potato salad that had likely been left in the fridge too long. (Caution point: Remember to toss out salads etc. that have been in the fridge more than a few days. )

Dec. 26,  2013

V- 9.0

Violent vomiting one off, traced to excess tannins in a red  Merlot wine wifey purchased for the Xmas holidays.  Both of us became ill but unaware of the exact cause at the time we tossed out an entire leftover half pork roast  - believing it was the culprit.

Which brings me to the most recent episode:

April 5-9, 2015

V- 8.5

D- 9.0

My initial reaction is this was too violent and lengthy to be regular food poisoning, and I sensed what it might be from the Monday I put the previous post up. I was right! Without going into all the clinical details here are your best friends for dealing with a norovirus (there are as many mutations as for flu):

- Plenty rolls of toilet paper

- A large basin near the 'throne' .  When you have to vomit you sit down and let it rip because - make no mistake - nasty material will eject both ways. You never want to be just standing up, bending over the bowl!

The culprit? Hard to say.  Since wifey didn't get sick it reduces to one of two foods I ate Easter morning but she didn't: a "Bear claw" pastry purchased at Safeway (open sliding window), or maple pork sausages (frozen pkg) also purchased there.  I lean to the pastry. Theory: It was probably left lying in there for at least a day and who knows how many grubby, germy kids may have put mitts on it when Mom said 'No, we have other stuff'- thereby leaving it out in the open for a poor slob to pick up.

Say one thing say the next, wife disagrees - laying blame on the pork sausages.

Anyway, here are tips to take away if you should have the rank misfortune of getting slammed by something similar:

- Have your loved one stock up on things like Gatorade, soda crackers, applesauce, chicken broth, bananas (mashed). You will need them at least several days maybe more - I am still on this "diet" more or less.

- Make sure to ingest Gatorade to replace lost electrolytes immediately after the first episode. You need to avoid dehydration at all costs - the main source of hospitalization. Some "doc" sites try to say this liquid "doesn't really replenish what you need" but don't buy it! It does work, and look - it's the 'juice' in vogue when you also have to do a colonoscopy prep!

- Water is also essential to keep drinking and most sites (e.g. Mayo Clinic, Web MD) recommend up to 16 cups a day. That can be a huge challenge when you're rushing to the bathroom after just half a glass so one suggestion is to consume it in the form of ice chips -sucked on slowly.

- By the 3rd day or 4th day you will get tired of the limited carbo diet but resist the urge to eat more. I learned this the hard way on Wed. when I thought I was well enough to have at least one hard-boiled egg. I wasn't.

The length and severity of this particular bout had me convinced that I might have somehow contracted a more virulent form of the norovirus - but it may merely have been my immune system is less well equipped to handle it or that the contaminants on the source food were in much greater concentration - causing this to now be going on for nearly five days - as opposed to three.

Does a bout of norovirus confer any immunity? Only in the most limited sense - maybe  6 months, if that. So don't look for any vaccines any time soon. Your best defense is to watch where and what you eat and wash those hands properly after coming in contact with any odd surfaces (norovirus can survive on surfaces up to 12 days).

You live and learn!

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