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Liz Bradshaw

Raise your right hand and repeat after me: “Yes, my mother was right.”

I don’t have a whole lot of rules about what I write for Raleigh & Company except that whatever it is, it has to be positive — hence the (ahem) creative column title, Positively Raleigh. We all read, hear and see enough bad news each day to last several lifetimes, and I don’t need to add to that overflow.

So how could a story about stomach viruses be even close to positive?

Because you can do something about fighting them, and that’s one of my favorite aspects of positivity: power. When you wield power, you can make something happen, and that’s good.

Back to Mom. I’m sure we can all remember the countless times she stopped us in our tracks as we barreled through the back door, starving for dinner, as she put her hands up: “Whoa, stop, go wash your hands first.”

That common-sense, simple “duh” advice is now popping up all over Twitter and everywhere else people get their information nowadays— instead of, or at least in addition to, Mom. And it’s just in time for the grand indoor season of making everyone else around you sick, winter, to the scale of tens of millions.

Enter a team of more than 30 scientists and their teams from 18 academic, industry and governmental entities, led by researchers at NC State. They’re focused on cutting-edge research and spreading the word about norovirus, the disgusting stomach bug causing unpleasant and all-too-frequent bathroom trips. You often hear about it running rampant through a cruise ship, or long-term care facility. The leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States, it’s miserable, and preventable.

And it’s scary, potentially causing hospitalization or even death. That’s why NoroCORE (the abbreviation for Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education) is making a big deal out of their plan to minimize the United States’ 20 million cases of norovirus each year. This months’ social media campaign to make sure the public listens, including kids, is creatively disguised as GIANT microbe plush toys dressed in adorable Halloween costumes.

That’s right, a norovirus masquerading as a vampire is concerned about your health and well-being, ostensibly so he can harvest your blood later, but that’s a whole other problem. According to Matt Shipman, public information officer for NC State, the vampire’s message is pretty direct: “Don’t let noroviruses suck the life out of you. An estimated 1 in every 15 Americans will experience the virus each year. Help you and your friends avoid the curse (and a lot of quality time in the bathroom) by practicing good hand-washing and food safety.”

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Vox is even in on the game, with a 4-step tutorial on exactly how to wash your hands for 20 seconds instead of the average six seconds. Or not at all like the coworker that you’d rather not name who just used the bathroom and walked out without going near the sink. Vox advice? Handwashing can “clean off body fluids that contain viruses, such as the flu, enterovirus D68, and Ebola. That’s why health organizations like the WHO and Mayo Clinic recommend handwashing as one of the most important preventive measures for infectious diseases.”

Last reminder from the vampire’s soapbox? It’s not only about hand-washing. Do your friends, coworkers and even strangers a favor and quarantine yourself if you have a fever, or threw up recently for a reason besides having too much fun. Please. Even if you haven’t been to West Africa lately.

Spread the word, not the bugs…wash your hands! Mom would be proud.

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