Norovirus outbreaks across the United States have plunged millions of families into misery and caused widespread school closures

By Tiare Dunlap
January 27, 2017 01:56 PM
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An in depth view of the Norovirus
Credit: Getty

Norovirus outbreaks across the United States have plunged millions of families into misery and caused widespread school closures.

The virus causes symptoms similar to those of food poisoning, including vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Because the bug is extremely contagious, it can spread easily in places like schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and cruise ships. Here’s what you need to know:

What is the norovirus?

Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines or both, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and sometimes fever, headaches and body aches.

How long do symptoms last?

A person usually develops symptoms within 12 to 48 hours after being exposed. Most people begin to feel better within one to three days.

How is norovirus transmitted?

You can become infected through contact with stool or vomit of infected people. This can happen through:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with the virus
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus
  • Having contact with someone who is infected

How is it treated?

There is no treatment for norovirus. Antibiotics will not help because it is a viral (not bacterial) infection. People with norovirus should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

How can you avoid it?

There is no vaccine to prevent the norovirus. The best way to protect yourself is to:

  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating, preparing or handling food
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly (noroviruses can survive temperatures as high as 140 degrees)
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution
  • Wash laundry thoroughly in hot water and wear rubber gloves while handling items soiled by sick people