In a world where reusable grocery bags are becoming a common place item and stores like Target in Evansville rewards customers who bring them with a 5¢ discount for each bag used, it is no surprise that norovirus outbreaks due to contaminated bags have become more prevalent.
In Oregon, public heath officials, have traced an outbreak of norovirus in a soccer team to a reusable grocery bag. It contained what experts call "the perfect pathogens" to make these girls sick.
It seems like hand sanitizer is in ever purse and lysol is sold by the buckets, but no one thinks to throw their reusable grocery bags in the wash. Most all reusable bags can go for a roll in the washing machine on a delicate cycle and be hung to dry. We wash our clothes, clorox our showers, and have a huge campaign for washing your hands - we should be washing our bags too.
A great way to cut back on cross contamination of viruses and pathogens is to use different bags for different purposes. This may seem like extra work, but do you want your raw meat juice in the same bag as your socks; probably not. Having a color system or different store bags for different jobs is a great method to keep things separate.
Reusable bags are helping to keep plastic out of landfills and cutting back on paper use, but the impact on the environment vs. the impact of public health is in debate. Hopefully all the attention drawn by recent events will encourage all to keep bags clean and the environment a little less effected.
Read more in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
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