Norovirus: An Overview


What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. It is easily spread from contaminated food or drinks. You can also get it from infected individuals and contaminated surfaces. 

How common is Norovirus?

Worldwide, noroviruses are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis (diarrhea and vomiting illness). According to the CDC, noroviruses cause 19 million to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S. per year.

How does norovirus compare to influenza?

The norovirus is not related to influenza (“the flu”). The flu is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. This causes fever, chills, fatigue, cough, congestion and etc. The norovirus affects your gastrointestinal tract and common symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting. While the flu can last 1 to 2 weeks, norovirus usually only last 1 to 3 days.

How can I protect myself from the norovirus?

  • cleaning-wipes-and-sprayNorovirus is a non-enveloped virus and that means that your typical hand sanitizer will not kill it. You will have to wipe down surfaces and items you touch regularly with a disinfectant that kills norovirus, such as Oxivir.
  • Anyone with diarrhea or vomiting should stay home and not attend class until symptoms are gone in order to prevent spreading norovirus to others.
  • Handwashing is the most important step to prevent the spread of norovirus. It is essential to wash hands after using the restroom and before touching food.
  • People with diarrhea or who are vomiting should not handle food, work in or attend daycare centers or schools or take care of patients in a healthcare facility until 48 hours after their symptoms are gone.
  • Wash off any raw fruits and vegetables will also help you avoid the virus.

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What to do if you get the norovirus? 

The biggest risk involved with the norovirus is dehydration. Drink plenty of liquids to replace lost fluids. Sports drinks like Gatorade or other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration, but they will not replace important nutrients lost. Check your local pharmacy for oral rehydration fluids which are most helpful for mild dehydration. If you feel the symptoms have gotten too severe go to a health provider and they may treat you with an IV.

Make sure you are continually washing your hands, especially after any vomiting and diarrhea. When symptoms are over with it is important to wipe any surfaces you may have touched with bleach to prevent others from getting the virus.