Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Stomach Flu can actually come FROM Poor Food Handling

Facebook is a fun way to get updates on all things Christmas.  This year was painful though because I swear every third post was about the stomach flu.  The real blow came when my cousins started posting the day after Christmas (my birthday) about how they were sick with stomach flu.  Why was this so upsetting?  Because we spent Christmas night with my cousins.  Wonderful.  Now every time my stomach rumbles I can't help but think...Tick Tock, Tick Tock.  When will we get it???

This really got me to thinking about stomach flu during Christmas.  When I was growing up, we often woke up Christmas morning sick with the "stomach flu".  It's just one day of the year, why would it be so common for stomach flu to hit on this particular day?

Even when it's not Christmas, I'm a bit of a freak about stomach flu.  Okay, I'm a little crazy actually.  Sometimes I have to physically restrain myself from interrogating our playmates with questions like, Have you or your kids been sick recently?   Have you been AROUND anyone who was sick?   No?  Well then by all means, welcome to my home!  As you can imagine, it's not a great way to make friends so I do my best to restrain myself.

I've been doing some research and I've found that stomach flu at Christmas time probably isn't a coincidence.  It turns out that "stomach flu" is often masked for food poisoning.  In fact, 1 out of every 3 cases of "stomach flu" is actually food poisoning and cases of food-bourne illness go up drastically during the Holiday Season because we amateurs don't know the rules of food preparation.  We leave food sitting out while we wait for everyone to arrive.  We have a party that lasts for several hours and we far exceed the two hour rule, which is how long food experts recommend food can stay unrefrigerated.

Here are some facts to keep you awake at night:

1. Purrell doesn't kill stomach flu.   Hand-washing can get rid of it and wash it down the drain but doesn't totally kill it.  I know what you're thinking because I thought the same thing.  Why don't you just rain on my parade?  Every time I take the kids to the mall I douse them in Purrell and call it good.  That's not enough? 
2.  Stomach flu is frequently CAUSED by poor food preparation. Poor food handling can cause the norovirus, which presents as stomach flu.  Unfortunately, the norovirus is contagious and incidents of this virus sharply increase during summer picnics and Winter Holiday Season, due to POOR FOOD PREPARATION.  It's not a coincidence.
3.  Someone who had the stomach flu is contagious up to three days after they start feeling better .  You can't send kids back to school or daycare the same day they stop throwing up.  They will get everyone sick.

However I was actually a bit relieved by these finding because at least we can actively work to prevent stomach flu during the Holidays.  For example, my Aunt makes an amazing beef tenderloin on Christmas Eve.  Luckily she has worked in restaurants for years and she literally uses a plastic glove to prepare the meat.  This would probably seem odd to most people and I doubt this is a common practice in most family meals, but I'm so glad she does!  We can prevent the norovirus (stomach flu) and that's very good news to a freak like me!

So, I make a plea on behalf of everyone who hates to vomit, which is probably the entire civilized world.  Let's make a pact.  If your know your family is sick, don't take your kids anywhere.  Don't take them to school.  Don't take them to Mother's Day Out.  Don't take them to the mall the second they start feeling better.  Stay home and get well and disinfect.   I know it's tempting, believe me.  When your kid is cranky sometimes getting them out of the house is pure luxury, but please don't.  It's just not worth it.

PS...In defense of my cousins, they didn't know they had stomach flu on Christmas and it turns out they got it from another family, not from food.  Much to my relief we all made it through the night without any symptoms so hopefully we're in the clear since it's already December 28th.  Fingers crossed!!
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  1. It makes me cringe every time I'm at a playgroup or preschool and hear another mom mention how Johnny had the flu over the weekend, but here he is on Monday morning hanging out with my kid. It also makes me cringe when my husband gets home from work telling me about his sick coworker who sat next to him in a meeting. Some people truly do think getting sick is just part of being a kid!

  2. Thanks for the info. So far so good here in our home. :D I'm a new follower from Taddletale Tuesday. Please take time to check out my blog to and follow me back. Thanks, Holly

  3. So educational. I can think of at least 4 Christmases where someone (or many people) in my family had "the stomach bug". It makes sense....


    SO TRUE!

    I've only vomitted 3-4 times in my life and ALL of them were right after a family "food gathering". I'm telling's dangerous.

  5. I'm with you, food poisoning is really scary.. dropping by from the WW blog hop :) Happy holidays!

  6. I'm already your GFC and facebook follower by the way :)

  7. I love your post. I think I undercooked the first turkey I ever cooked when I was about 20 but have done well ever since when I do bother to make one. This year we all had the flu a couple weeks before Christmas and have been fine since. I am a new follower to your site and would love a follow back.

  8. This is a great post and so true. I think a lot of people don't realize how easily it is passed around. I had stomach flu from some cupcakes or eggs my niece and sister in law made me. Never again!! I didn't get mad though because her heart was in the right place (she's only a little girl) but the sickness was so not worth it!!

  9. Hey there what a great activity! I am following you now. My website is leave me a comment or something so I know you are new, but great blog!