Well Being

Vomiting Larry: The Week’s Funniest Contribution to Science (Unless You Have Norovirus)

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norovirus vomiting larry
“Vomiting Larry”–a vomiting dummy used to simulate norovirus, which is hitting Britain particularly hard right now–is probably the week's funniest contribution to science. But fair warning: You should not watch this if you're feeling nauseous.

The video may look like a funny outtake reel from Aliens, but it's actually a pretty useful contribution to science: Norovirus–which is often mistaken for a stomach flu (even though it has no relation to the influenza virus)–is a vicious illness, but one that's difficult to study. (As CNet explains, “you can't just ask a bunch of sick people to pop down to the lab and vomit on demand.”) To figure out why and how the virus spreads so far, so quickly, scientists created Larry, whose vomit is a benign but informative solution made with fluorescent markers to track the spread of his vomit.

The video of Larry throwing up is pretty disgusting (but again: if you're not predisposed to nausea, it's kind of funny…or at least, thousands of people spreading his image around social media think so). But the grossest part of the story is that his simulations have shown that Norovirus vomiting can reach as far as ten feet away from the infected person, via their vomit. Ugh.

It appears to have infected more people this winter than usual, and it's not clear why, according to professor Ian Goodfellow of Cambridge University. You don't have to be unhealthy to get infected, and standard household disinfectants aren't that effective against it, he says. The It mostly spreads through “violent vomiting episodes” that spread tiny particles of vomit across very far distances. So…stay away from anyone who looks like they're about to pull a Vomiting Larry.

Check out Larry in action, below: