Norovirus precautions

Norovirus outbreaks have spiked, making millions of people sick.

It's highly contagious. Consumer Reports has ways to avoid getting sick.

Every year up to 21 million Americans get sick from Norovirus.

Often associated with cruise ships and hospital, it spreads easily in confined spaces.

This year, it's forced schools and colleges all across the country to temporarily close.

"Often mistakenly called the stomach flu but not related to influenza, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, and occasionally fever," said Dr. Orly Avitzur, /Consumer Reports Medical Advisor

You can get the illness anytime of the year but it's most common in the winter.

Norovirus spreads through fecal matter, contaminated food or coming into contact with someone who is sick with the virus.

"If you are close to someone who is vomiting you may get sick through aerosolized particles. If that happens you'll probably see symptoms within 12-48 hours," said Avitzur.

So what should you do to avoid it? Consumer Reports recommends washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 30 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling food.

Hand sanitizers alone do not work.

Also, if someone in your home has gotten sick with norovirus, disinfect contaminated surfaces with 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water.

If you do get sick, stay home. Expect to be out one to three days.