What is the Norovirus?
By Victor Montour
The Norovirus is a very contagious virus you can get from an infected person, contaminated food, water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The norovirus can cause your stomach, intestines or both to get inflamed which we call (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Anyone can be infected with norovirus and get sick. You can also get the norovirus illness many times in your life. The reason for this is that there are many different types of noroviruses. Being infected with one type of norovirus may not protect you against other types. Norovirus illness can be serious, especially for young children and older adults.
The norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Each year, it causes 19-21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths. The norovirus is also the most common cause of food borne-disease outbreaks in the United States. The norovirus can spread very quickly in closed well populated places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks happen in one of these settings with a peak season from November to April in the United States.
The most common symptoms associated with the norovirus are;
- throwing up
- stomach pain
- body aches
If you think 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 other illnesses. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days. The symptoms of dehydration are;
- decrease in urination
- dry mouth and throat
- feeling dizzy when standing up
- Children who are dehydrated may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.
The norovirus can be found in your stool (feces) even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better. You are most contagious with the norovirus when you are sick with norovirus illness, and during the first few days after you recover from norovirus illness.You can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting stool or vomit from infected people in your mouth. This usually happens by;
- eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
- touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth.
- having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness).
There is no specific medicine to treat people with norovirus illness. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is a viral (not a bacterial) infection.
If you have the norovirus illness, you should minimize contact with other people, 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.
Dehydration can lead to serious problems. Severe dehydration may require further medical attention or hospitalization for treatment with fluids given through your vein (intravenous or IV fluids). If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, call for medical attention.
Preventing the spread of the norovirus
The best way to help prevent spreading the norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water—
- After using the toilet and changing diapers
- Always before eating, preparing, or handling food.
- Disinfect surfaces that may have become contaminated
- Isolate yourself from others till symptoms have resolved for24 hours
- Do not share eating utensils or beverage containers
Remember the Noroviruses can be found in your vomit or stool even before you start feeling sick. The virus can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after you feel better. So, it is important to continue washing your hands often during this time.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. But, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.
If you would like more information about Front Range Hospice or The Norovirus call 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.