In an effort to find out how far the extremely contagious norovirus germs travel when a person with the sickness throws up, researchers have invented a vomiting robot.

“Vomiting Larry” was created at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Britain. The reason he was developed was to help scientists understand the range of contamination norovirus has during episodes of projectile vomiting that is experienced by its sufferers.

Norovirus causes serious projectile vomiting as well as diarrhea for up to 62 hours. After exposure to the virus, the symptoms start 12 to 48 hours later. The virus can be spread by an infected person through direct contact and contaminated food or surfaces.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus sickens nearly 21 million Americans each year, causing 800 deaths and 70,000 hospitalizations.

Researchers from HSL developed Vomiting Larry to evaluate how the virus so easily spreads from person to person. Larry is made up of a cylinder body loaded with water combined with florescent liquid, a head with an open mouth, and a pump to eject water through the mouth, like a projectile vomit.

After Vomiting Larry projectile vomited, the extent of room contamination was able to be measured by the amount of particles spread across the room. The researchers found that the particles could spread over three meters and that these drops are not easily visible under white hospital lighting.

The study showed that norovirus can be separated from these small particles at concentrations effective enough to cause an infection. This implies that when someone sick with the virus throws up, the area that needs to be cleaned is much larger than previously thought.

Norovirus can quickly infect many people in a short amount of time because it passes easily from person to person. It is also resistant to several cleaning products, such as ones that are used to clean bathrooms and kitchens and hand sanitizer.

In fact, earlier research says that hand sanitizers may actually cause outbreaks instead of prevent them.

The maker of Vomiting Larry, Catherine Makison-Booth, recommends using bleach to effectively clean up the vomit.

In February of 2012, it was reported that 18.2 percent of all infection outbreaks and 65 percent of all ward closures in hospitals are due to norovirus.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald