Health

What is Norovirus and How Does it Spread?

What is norovirus and how does it spread? In this article, we will explore the various ways in which norovirus can be spread, the symptoms associated with the virus, and the steps that can be taken to prevent its spread.

What is Norovirus? 

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It is often referred to as the “stomach bug” or “stomach flu” and can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, with 19 to 21 million cases occurring each year. It can be spread through contaminated food or water, touching contaminated surfaces, or coming into contact with someone who is infected.

Norovirus is a genus consisting of one species of virus, known as Norwalk virus (family Caliciviridae), that frequently gives rise to outbreaks of foodborne and waterborne gastroenteritis in humans. The virus is shed in stool and vomit and can stay on surfaces and objects for days or weeks. Norovirus spreads easily through close contact or on contaminated food or surfaces. Most people recover completely without treatment, but for some people, especially young children, older adults, and people with other medical conditions, vomiting and diarrhea can be severely dehydrating and require medical attention.

Symptoms of Norovirus. 

  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Nausea.
  • Stomach pain or cramps.
  • Feeling ill.
  • Low-grade fever.
  • Muscle pain.

How Long Does the Symptoms of Norovirus Last? 

These symptoms of Norovirus can start suddenly and usually last for 1 to 3 days.

How To Prevent Norovirus. 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, before eating, preparing, or handling food, and before giving yourself or someone else medicine. 
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables well and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 145°F.
  • Routinely clean and sanitize kitchen utensils, counters, and surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1,000 to 5,000 ppm (5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach [5% to 8%] per gallon of water) or use an EPA-registered disinfecting product against norovirus. 
  • Avoid preparing food for others or providing healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 days (48 hours) after symptoms stop. 
  • After someone vomits or has diarrhea, always clean well and disinfect the entire area immediately.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may have vomit or poop on them. 
  • Stay home when sick and for two days after symptoms stop.

What Causes Norovirus? 

Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that frequently give rise to outbreaks of foodborne and waterborne gastroenteritis in humans. The virus is shed in stool and vomit and can stay on surfaces and objects for days or weeks. Norovirus spreads easily through close contact or on contaminated food or surfaces. 

When Should I See A Doctor About Norovirus?

If you develop diarrhea that doesn’t go away within several days, or if you experience severe vomiting, bloody stools, stomach pain, or dehydration, it is wise that you seek medical attention immediately. 

How Is Norovirus Diagnosed?

Norovirus infection is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms, but noroviruses can be identified from a stool sample. 

If you have a weakened immune system or have other medical conditions, your doctor might recommend a stool test to confirm the presence of norovirus.

What Is Norovirus Treated? 

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially liquids that contain electrolytes. 
  • Get a lot of rest.
  • Eat soft, bland foods.
  • Use over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches.
  • Avoid taking anti-diarrheal medications unless recommended by your doctor.
  • Avoid preparing food for others or providing healthcare while you are sick and for at least 2 days (48 hours) after symptoms stop.
  • After someone vomits or has diarrhea, always clean well and disinfect the entire area immediately.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may have vomit or poop on them.
  • Stay home when sick and for two days after symptoms stop.

How Does Norovirus Spread?

  • Having direct contact with someone with norovirus, such as by caring for them, sharing food or eating utensils with them, or eating food handled by them.
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your unwashed fingers in your mouth.
  • A person with norovirus touches food with their bare hands.
  • Food is placed on a counter or surface that has poop or vomit particles on it.
  • Tiny drops of vomit from a person with norovirus spray through the air and land on the food.
  • Food is grown with contaminated water, such as oysters, or fruit and vegetables are watered with contaminated water in the field.
  • A person with norovirus touches surfaces with their bare hands.
  • Food, water, or objects that are contaminated with norovirus are placed on surfaces.
  • Tiny drops of vomit from a person with norovirus spray through the air, landing on surfaces or entering another person’s mouth.
  • A person with norovirus has diarrhea that splatters onto surfaces.

The Key Takeaway. 

Norovirus is a serious illness that can cause serious discomfort and inconvenience. The virus is highly contagious and can be spread through contaminated food or water, touching contaminated surfaces, or coming into contact with someone who is infected. If you do become infected with norovirus, it is important to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. If your symptoms persist or become severe, seek medical attention immediately.

FAQs on Norovirus.

How long does it take for norovirus symptoms to appear?

Norovirus symptoms usually appear within 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus.

Can norovirus be spread through the air?

No, Norovirus is primarily spread through contaminated food or water, touching contaminated surfaces, or coming into contact with someone who is infected. It is not spread through the air.

How long is norovirus contagious?

Norovirus is highly contagious and can be spread from the moment you begin to feel ill until several days after you recover.

Can you get norovirus more than once?

Yes, it is possible to get norovirus more than once because there are many different strains of the virus.

Is there a vaccine for norovirus?

There is currently no vaccine for norovirus.

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