According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new strain of the norovirus has been spreading throughout the country. Many people call norovirus the “stomach flu” or “flu,” although the disease is not related to influenza. Influenza is primarily a respiratory virus with symptoms including fever, achiness, chills and respiratory symptoms, while norovirus has mainly gastrointestinal symptoms. Unlike the flu there isn’t a vaccine that can prevent norovirus. and there is no medication to treat people who get sick from the virus. Antibiotics will not help if you have norovirus illness because antibiotics fight against bacteria, not viruses.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food, contaminated water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Noroviruses are highly contagious. A person with norovirus infection can shed billions of norovirus particles. But it only takes as few as 18 viral particles to infect another person. Not everyone who is exposed to norovirus will get infected. Some people who get norovirus infection may not have symptoms, but they could still shed the virus in their stool. A person usually develops symptoms of gastroenteritis from 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Typical symptoms include:
If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems. Symptoms of the illness usually last 24-to-72 hours. People typically recover completely without any serious long-term problems. But norovirus illness can be serious, especially when severe dehydration occurs. Symptoms of dehydration include
• Decrease in urination
• Dry mouth and throat
• Feeling dizzy when standing up
If you have norovirus illness, you should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from throwing up and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration. Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. But, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals. Oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter are most helpful for mild dehydration.
The best way to reduce your chance of getting norovirus is to follow these simple tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
1. Practice proper hand hygiene; always wash your hands carefully with soap and water. Alcohol- based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. However, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
2. Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly.
3. When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others. You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick for at least 2 to 3 days after you recover. This also applies to sick workers in schools, daycares, and other places where they may expose people to norovirus.
4. After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
5. Wash laundry thoroughly
Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool (feces).
For more information check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s web page, “Prevent the Spread of Norovirus.”