Norovirus causes many people to become ill with vomiting and diarrhea each year. You can help protect yourself and others by washing your hands often and avoiding handling others foods if ill.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can spread quickly in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks occur from November to April.
Norovirus is a virus, it can be spread through vomiting or diarrhea and can be spread from accidental contact. 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).
“You can have norovirus 24 to 48 hours, or longer, before you have symptoms and the onset of symptoms is typically abrupt,” says Michelle Heim, DO, McFarland Clinic Carroll Family Medicine physician. “Symptoms can last for 48 to 72 hours with rapid recovery.”
You are most contagious
- when you are sick with norovirus illness, and
- during the first few days after you recover from norovirus illness.
Common symptoms include:
- throwing up
- stomach pain, cramping
“Generalized fatigue, muscle aches and headache are also common,” says Dr. Heim. “Half of the people that get norovirus will have a fever. Symptoms can last 1 to 3 days.”
The severity of the illness usually guides the treatment. Most people do not become overly ill but there is the potential for severe dehydration.
“Because norovirus is a virus, there is not an antibiotic that will treat it. Treatment is supportive. Fluids are the mainstay of treatment; for mild symptoms sports drinks and broths may be sufficient, for children pedialyte,” says Dr. Heim.
“If you have severe symptoms and are unable to maintain hydration you may need additional supportive care, and should seek medical care. Call your doctor if you are experiencing higher fevers, bloody stools and abdominal pain,” says Dr. Heim.
For more information on norovirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control: Norovirus.