What is Norovirus?

A vacation is always ruined when vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea plays spoilsport. Norovirus, also known as a winter vomiting bug, is now notorious for affecting passengers travelling on a cruise ship.

When on land, a norovirus can have a major impact of people's health. Noroviruses can be described as viruses that trigger an inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining. In fact, norovirus is one of the main causes of gastroenteritis in the United States.

Noroviruses can also be referred to as food poisoning as they can be transmitted through food contaminated by virus. However, noroviruses may not always be caused by food contamination. They can also be referred to as the stomach flu, although they are not the influenza virus.

What is Norovirus

How Does Norovirus Spread or What are the Causes of Norovirus Infection?

You can become infected with noroviruses when you consume contaminated food or drink. Sometimes, undercooked oysters, raw fruits and vegetables are also responsible for an outbreak. You can get infected when you come in contact with a surface or object infected by the virus. It can escalate when you touch your mouth, eyes and nose.

As mentioned earlier, noroviruses tend to thrive on cruise ships, in restaurants and other closed places. The virus can survive in temperature extremes on the surface and in water.

Once you get contaminated by food, the virus can transfer from person to person through shared utensils or food, or even by shaking hands. People with an poor immune system are particularly vulnerable to noroviruses.

How Long Does the Norovirus Symptoms Last?

Some of the noted symptoms of a norovirus infection are:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps or pain
  • Low-grade fever
  • Malaise
  • Muscle pain.

It should be noted that norovirus symptoms usually start to show 24 or 48 hours after the exposure to the deadly virus. These symptoms of norovirus can last for up to three days. Do not be alarmed if you shed the virus through stool for around three days after recovering from the illness.

There could be an instance where people infected with norovirus may not show visible symptoms. But, they are still contagious and can be transferred from one person to another.

If you have diarrhea that does not disappear after a certain period of time, consult a doctor. If you suffer severe vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration or bloody stools, call up your doctor immediately.

What is the Incubation Period of Norovirus?

It might be the case that norovirus could have a longer infection period that may begin before a person is infected by the virus. The infected person will have to contend with a short lag or incubation period of around two days. The incubation period of norovirus is taken as the time when the person is infected with the virus and when the symptoms start to reveal themselves. The norovirus is contagious during the incubation period. No one is exempt from being contagious when the symptoms of norovirus start to manifest.

It should be noted that the severely contagious period of norovirus ends when the symptoms resolve. If you feel that you have recovered completely after the infection, it is a possibility that you might shed the virus in your stool for weeks. This could be a source of infection to people who also used the same bathroom as you. Those who have weak immune systems (people undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplant) may continue to shed the virus for a few months. In general, most people become non-contagious around 72 hours after symptoms cease to manifest themselves. For parents, it is important not to send children back to school, or day care unless they are symptom-free for close to three days. For adults with norovirus, it is essential not to go back to work for the same period of time.

What are the Treatment Options for Norovirus?

There are no specific treatments to cure the norovirus infection. Recovery will depend on your immune system health. For most people, the illness will resolve in a few days.

Replacing lost fluids is essential in this case. If you are not able to drink enough fluids to fight dehydration, receiving fluids intravenously will have to be considered.

Doctors may suggest over-the-counter anti-diarrhoea medication for those under the age of 65.

Home Remedies to Treat Norovirus

In order to fight dehydration, you will require copious amounts of liquids, especially water and a variety of juices. Children should be given an oral rehydration solution (like Pedialyte) to replace lost electrolytes and fluids. Stay away from sugary drinks, which could trigger another bout of diarrhoea. Also, adults should keep away from alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which have the ability to dehydrate you further.

If there are young children in your family, it would be a good idea to give them a commercially-prepared oral hydration solution like Pedialyte. Adults can opt for sports drinks as well as broths.

Also, a bland diet that comprises of smaller meals will help keep vomiting at bay. Here are some foods you can consider eating when infected or recovering from norovirus:

  • A variety of soups; ensure they are not too spicy
  • Cereals and starches are also a good option. Potatoes, rice, noodles or crackers are great options
  • Bananas are good for you during this period
  • Yogurt helps cool the stomach
  • Broiled vegetables.

How Can You Prevent Norovirus Infection?

  • Make it a point to use soap to wash your hands for around 15 seconds, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will also help prevent norovirus infection. After visiting the bathroom, changing diapers or preparing food, cleaning your hands is essential.
  • Make sure you dispose of dirty items responsibly.
  • It is essential to wash raw fruits and vegetables well before cooking them in order to prevent norovirus.
  • Use a detergent and chlorine bleach mixture to clean counters, especially if someone isn't well.
  • After you recover, do not prepare for at least two to three days till you feel better. Avoid eating food cooked by someone who has the virus, as it can be easily transmitted.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: June 22, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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