Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up.
Anyone can be infected with norovirus and get sick. Also, you can have norovirus illness many times in your life. Norovirus illness can be serious, especially for young children and older adults.
Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Each year, it causes 19-21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths. Norovirus is also the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States.
The best way to help prevent norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness.
Drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids that are lost from throwing up and diarrhea.
Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. But, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals. Oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter are most helpful for mild dehydration.
If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, call a doctor.
Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines or both. This is called acute gastroenteritis.
The most common symptoms—
· throwing up
· stomach pain
· body aches
If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.
Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.
Symptoms of dehydration—
· decrease in urination
· dry mouth and throat
· feeling dizzy when standing up
Children who are dehydrated may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.
Norovirus and food
Norovirus is the leading cause of illness from contaminated food in the United States.
Foods commonly involved in outbreaks—
· leafy greens (such as lettuce)
· fresh fruits
· shellfish (such as oysters)
But, any food served raw or handled after being cooked can get contaminated.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus. Anyone can get infected with norovirus and get sick. Also, you can get norovirus illness many times in your life. One reason for this is that there are many different types of noroviruses. Being infected with one type of norovirus may not protect you against other types.
Norovirus can be found in your stool (feces) even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better.
You are most contagious
· when you are sick with norovirus illness, and
· during the first 3 days after you recover from norovirus illness.
You can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting stool or vomit from infected people in your mouth. This usually happens by
· eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
· touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or
· having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness).
Norovirus can spread quickly in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks happen from November to April in the United States.
Preventing Norovirus Infection
There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection, but research is being done in this area.
Practice proper hand hygiene
Wash your hands carefully with soap and water—
· especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and
· always before eating, preparing, or handling food.
Noroviruses can be found in your vomit or stool even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better. So, it is important to continue washing your hands often during this time.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. But, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly
Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
Be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish.
Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.
Keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is being handled and prepared.
When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others who are sick
You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 to 3 days after you recover.
Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces
After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For more information
Wash laundry thoroughly
Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool (feces).
· handle soiled items carefully without agitating them,
· wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled items and wash your hands after, and
· wash the items with detergent at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry them.