What To Eat & Avoid When You Have Norovirus Infection?

Norovirus is a virus that causes food poisoning that is prevalent in winter. It is known as a seasonal infection along with influenza.

What To Eat & Avoid When You Have Norovirus Infection?

Diarrhea and vomiting can cause the body to lose a lot of fluids and salts (electrolytes). This can be particularly dangerous in young children and the elderly causing circulatory problems, seizures, and even kidney failure.

The patient should drink plenty of fluids with sufficient salts. This can be water or tea with a little salt and sugar, broth, and diluted juices. For infants and young children, more breastmilk or equivalent must be added.

Do not eat heavy foods or eat in big quantities at a time. But, take a little food and water at regular intervals.(2)

Norovirus infection is usually quick and violent. Most patients experience severe vomiting and diarrhea, usually accompanied by headache, abdominal pain and body aches, and sometimes with mild fever. These acute signs usually last for one to three days. Symptoms such as limpness and a general feeling of illness can persist for a few more days.

In some patients, norovirus infection only causes diarrhea without vomiting or vomiting without diarrhea. There are also infections that are completely symptom-free.(3)

Symptoms of norovirus infection include viral food poisoning and infectious gastroenteritis. When infected, it causes severe nausea and abdominal pain, as well as diarrhea and vomiting. Because it is highly infectious, it is often characterized by outbreaks in nurseries and elderly facilities.

Infection routes are often spread through hand contact and food, or from vomit and feces of infected people. The virus remains active even when overheated, but it is also one of the prevention methods (heating of foods). Hand washing and gargle with warm water are also effective prevention methods.(1)

When a family member or any person is infected with norovirus, there is a possibility of secondary infection if the vomit is not properly sterilized with chlorine bleach while processing the vomit.

In older people, vomit may get clogged in the throat and cause breathing problems or choking. It is necessary to pay special attention to infections among children and the elderly.(1)

Examinations And Diagnosis For Norovirus

If you suspect a norovirus infection, the general practitioner is the right person to contact. To detect the norovirus, three diagnostic steps are usually necessary: collecting your medical history, physical examination, and detection of the noroviruses in the stool or in vomit.(3)

Treatment For Norovirus

There is no specific drug therapy for norovirus infection and is usually not necessary. Instead, you try to alleviate the symptoms as much as possible (symptomatic therapy).
In general, patients with norovirus should be careful. Bed rest is recommended. Further measures depend on the severity of the symptoms and the general state of health of the patient.

If an infection is only mild to moderate in symptoms, the patient can be cared for at home. The loss of fluids and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, etc.) due to vomiting and diarrhea should be compensated.(3)(4)

Norovirus Infection Treatment For More Severe Symptoms

In the case of pronounced norovirus signs, it may be useful to compensate for the loss of fluids and electrolytes with a substitute solution from the pharmacy. This is especially true when the patient cannot or does not want to take in enough fluid and electrolytes. This often happens to children and the elderly.

The substitution solution is also referred to as oral rehydration solution (ORS) or WHO solution (as per the World Health Organization). It contains glucose and electrolytes such as table salt or potassium chloride dissolved in water. You can get them in the pharmacy, usually in powder form to be dissolved in potable water.

For severe vomiting, any drug for nausea and vomiting (antiemetic) may be given after consulting a doctor.(4)

Prevention Of Norovirus Infection

You cannot specifically prevent norovirus infection. There is no norovirus vaccination yet. However, you can reduce the risk of contracting norovirus with the following measures:

  • Maintain hygiene – You should wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, especially before eating and after going to the bathroom.
  • Use Disinfectant – You can also use a norovirus disinfectant available at the pharmacy for hand washing. You should also use it to clean door handles, light switches, and cutlery. A mask (mouth protection) is also recommended to avoid inhaling virus particles.
  • Wash – Make sure that the laundry of the patient is always washed immediately. Choose a washing temperature of 90°C.
  • Avoid Contact – Affected people should stay at home up to two days after the infection to stop spreading the infection.(5)

References:

  1. Atmar RL, Estes MK. The epidemiologic and clinical importance of norovirus infection. Gastroenterology Clinics. 2006;35(2):275-290.
  2. Cardemil CV, Parashar UD, Hall AJ. Norovirus infection in older adults: epidemiology, risk factors, and opportunities for prevention and control. Infectious Disease Clinics. 2017;31(4):839-870.
  3. Robilotti E, Deresinski S, Pinsky BA. Norovirus. Clinical microbiology reviews. 2015;28(1):134-164.
  4. Hardstaff JL, Clough HE, Lutje V, et al. Foodborne and food-handler norovirus outbreaks: a systematic review. Foodborne pathogens and disease. 2018;15(10):589-597.
  5. Hallowell BD, Parashar UD, Hall AJ. Epidemiologic challenges in norovirus vaccine development. Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics. 2019;15(6):1279-1283.

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