To kill and prevent the spread of stomach viruses, people should thoroughly clean and disinfect their hands, clothing, and contaminated surfaces with a bleach solution or suitable disinfecting product.

Stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, is a common illness that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. There is currently no specific treatment for stomach flu, but people usually recover quickly at home.

To kill the virus and prevent it from spreading, health experts recommend thorough cleaning and disinfecting. This will usually involve washing hands with soap and water, disinfecting surfaces with a bleach solution, and cleaning clothing in the hottest setting.

Read on to learn more about the best ways to prevent and kill stomach viruses.

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Viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious. People can acquire a virus from others through close contact or touching contaminated surfaces. As viruses can live on surfaces for a long time, cleaning and decontamination are critical to removing and destroying the virus.

To help prevent the spread of stomach flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:

  • thoroughly washing hands with soap and water
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces with bleach
  • washing laundry in hot water

When performing these tasks, a person should use rubber or disposable gloves. It is also advisable to:

  • leave disinfectants on the area for at least 5 minutes
  • wipe the area with paper towels then throw them away
  • clean the area again with soap and water


People should wash their hands, particularly after using the toilet, preparing food, or giving medicine. A person should continue washing their hands, even when they feel better. This is because they can still transmit the virus during this period. Additionally, using hand sanitizer is not a suitable substitute for handwashing.

Disinfecting surfaces

To properly clean and disinfect surfaces, it is advisable to use a household bleach solution. To create this solution, a person can use chlorine bleach with a concentration of 1,000–5,000 parts per million (ppm). This equates to roughly 5–25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water, making a 5–8% bleach solution. Alternatively, a person may consider using a disinfection product registered — i.e., endorsed — by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Washing laundry

For laundry, it is advisable to remove any visible vomit or stool from clothing and separate these items from regular laundry. A person can then use a 1/2 cup of bleach or an oxygenated detergent on a pre-wash cycle, then a regular wash cycle on the hottest setting.

Other tips

For carpets and furniture, a person should not use a vacuum, as this could further spread pathogens. Instead, they can apply either kitty litter or baking soda to the area, then disinfect using either steam or an EPA-registered antimicrobial product.

It is also possible to acquire the virus from certain foods. As such, it is important to thoroughly cook oysters and other shellfish, and wash fruits and vegetables well.

Additionally, vaccines are available for some viruses that can cause stomach flu, such as rotavirus. As rotavirus is a common cause of viral gastroenteritis in children, health experts recommend that infants receive this vaccine.

Currently, there is no specific treatment available for stomach viruses. However, most people usually recover at home in a few days without any long-term problems. However, it may take a couple of weeks for their bowel habits to return to normal.

To help speed up recovery, it is advisable for a person to:

  • get plenty of rest
  • maintain hydration
  • take medication to reduce symptoms
  • eat small amounts of plain food

In many people, symptoms of viral gastroenteritis only last for a few days and do not typically require treatment.

However, people may wish to take medications to help relieve symptoms of diarrhea and nausea. This can include over-the-counter medicines, such as loperamide (Immodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol). For some people, a doctor may also recommend probiotics.

It is worth noting that some medications may not be safe for children and others may interact with certain medications. As such, it is advisable to discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider. Additionally, a doctor will not prescribe antibiotics to treat viral gastroenteritis, as these medicines will not affect the responsible virus.

To aid recovery and reduce symptoms, a person should prevent dehydration. To replace lost fluids and electrolytes, people can try consuming:

  • water
  • broths
  • sports drinks
  • fruit juices
  • oral rehydration solutions
  • saltine crackers

Read on to learn more about home remedies for stomach flu.

Generally, symptoms of viral gastroenteritis may include:

  • watery diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • headaches
  • body aches

Additionally, people may experience symptoms of dehydration as a complication of stomach flu. This may result in symptoms, such as:

  • thirst
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • dark-colored urine
  • lightheadedness

The onset and duration of symptoms may vary slightly depending on the virus. Typically, the incubation period may last a few days after encountering the virus, and symptoms may last for a few days after. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the viruses may vary as follows:

Norovirus12–48 hours1–3 days
Rotavirus2 days3–8 days
Adenovirus3–10 days1–2 weeks
Astrovirus4–5 days1–4 days

Stomach flu is a contagious illness that occurs when viruses inflame and irritate the stomach and intestines. This causes symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

A person can acquire a virus from close contact with those carrying the virus, or from touching contaminated surfaces. To kill the virus and prevent spreading it, health experts advise thorough cleaning and disinfecting. This involves washing hands with soap, disinfecting surfaces with an antimicrobial solution, and cleaning clothes in the highest setting.