Norovirus causes gastroenteritis and is highly contagious, spreading quickly and easily from one person to another. Those who become infected with the virus are contagious from the moment symptoms appear to several days after they recover. Most cases occur in individuals who spend time in confined settings such as daycares, schools, cruise ships and nursing homes. Drinks and food contaminated with norovirus are the main sources of contamination in restaurants.
Those who come in contact with the virus typically experience symptoms within 24-48 hours of exposure. People can also become infected by touching an object or source infected by the virus and then putting their hands or fingers in their mouth, nose or eyes—the main gateways for viruses. If you think you may have contracted the virus, err on the side of caution and isolate yourself so that you don’t spread it to others.
The main symptoms of norovirus are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, although some people may also experience fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue and chills. Symptoms tend to be worse in children than in adults. Though their symptoms may be similar, it’s important not to confuse norovirus with influenza. Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, while the flu virus attacks the respiratory system. There is no vaccine to prevent novovirus and no medication to treat it.
How to prevent contamination?
- Wash hands regularly with soap and warm water for more than 15 seconds.
- Use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Clean and disinfect critical points of contact such as door handles, light switches, countertops and faucets with a disinfectant effective against norovirus.
- Avoid preparing food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting, and wait at least two days after your symptoms disappear before doing so.
- Avoid coming into contact with individuals infected with the virus, and wait at least two days after their symptoms disappear before doing so.
- Carefully rinse fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other seafood thoroughly.
- Wash laundry thoroughly. Separate contaminated clothing or linens from uncontaminated items. Wear gloves when handling clothing and linens. Avoid shaking them and wash your hands immediately afterwards.
In most cases, the virus lasts 1 to 3 consecutive days. However, special care must be taken to avoid dehydration, which is more common in young children and the elderly.