The norovirus outbreak linked to raw oysters in B.C. is growing, with hundreds of cases across three provinces. Other recent outbreaks of the bug have even shut down schools and hospital wards. It’s an important reminder to take precautions and keep yourself protected from the highly contagious virus.

Often mistakenly called the stomach flu, but not related to influenza, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, and occasionally fever. It spreads easily in confined spaces, which is why cruise ships and hospital wards are often hit hard.

You can get the illness anytime of the year, but it's most common in the winter.

Norovirus spreads through contaminated food, like in the recent outbreak involving B.C. oysters. Coming in contact with fecal matter or someone who is sick with the virus will also put you at risk.

“If you are close to someone who is vomiting you may get sick through aerosolized particles. If that happens you’ll probably see symptoms within 12 to 48 hours,” said Orly Avitzur, Consumer Reports health editor.

Doctors recommend washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 30 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling food. Hand sanitizers alone do not work.

If someone in your home has gotten sick with norovirus, disinfect everything you can. Bleach does the trick with five to 25 tablespoons per gallon of water. Also wash linens, towels and clothes that might have been contaminated.

But sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. If you are close to someone who is vomiting you may get sick through aerosolized particles. You'll probably see symptoms within 12-48 hours.

If you do get sick, stay home to avoid spreading it to others. Allow the virus to run its course, which usually takes one to three days. And drink lots of liquids as severe dehydration can land you in the emergency room.

There is currently no vaccine for norovirus.