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What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is also known as the winter vomiting bug, is a common cause of sickness, diarrhea, and gastroenteritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source, norovirus causes gastroenteritis in 19–21 million people per year in the United States.

It more commonly causes infection during the winter months, it can affect people at any time of the year. People sometimes incorrectly refer to a norovirus infection as “stomach flu.” The medical term is gastroenteritis, and it does not have a connection with the flu, which is a respiratory infection. It is a member of the Caliciviridae family of viruses. These viruses are responsible for about 90% of viral gastroenteritis outbreaks and close to 50% of cases across the world.

It can be difficult to eliminate noroviruses because they can survive in hot and cold temperatures, and they are resistant to many disinfectants. Noroviruses continually undergo genetic changes. For this reason, humans tend to develop a norovirus infection more than once during their lifetime, although the symptoms are usually less severe each time.

Symptoms of Norovirus

Signs and symptoms of norovirus infection include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Watery or loose diarrhea
  • Feeling ill
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle pain

Signs and symptoms usually begin 12-48 hours after exposure to norovirus and last one to three days. You can continue to shed viruses in your feces for up to two weeks after recovery. This shedding can last weeks to months if you have an underlying health condition. During the brief period when symptoms are present, people can feel very ill and vomit many times a day, often violently and without warning.

Norovirus

Treatment

Fasting will not speed up recovery. People with norovirus should eat a light diet consisting of foods that are easy to digest, such as rice, bread, soups, and pasta. Infants with norovirus should continue to follow their regular diet.

A person will need to ensure that they replace the fluids that they lose through vomiting or diarrhea. Replacing fluids in very young children and older adults is especially crucial, as people in these age groups are particularly susceptible to dehydration that comes on very rapidly.

Risk Factors

  • Having a weakened immune system, for example, people who have undergone an organ transplant and individuals living with HIV
  • Living in a household whose members do not correctly observe food hygiene practices
  • Living with a child who attends a child care center or preschool
  • Staying in a hotel, cruise ship, or vacation resort where many people congregate
  • Living in a closed or semi-closed community, such as a nursing home, hospital, or retirement center.

Causes of Norovirus

  • Contaminated foods.
  • Junk foods, and that a worker with a norovirus infection has handled.
  • Any food that contains particles of the feces or vomit of a person with norovirus.

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