According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Norovirus causes about 20 million gastroenteritis cases each year in the United States. There's no vaccine to prevent infection and no drug to treat it, but there are things you can do to stay healthy.
Anyone Can Get Norovirus
Anyone can be infected with noroviruses and get sick. You can get Norovirus illness multiple times during your life as well. The illness often begins suddenly. You may feel very sick, with stomach cramping, throwing up, or diarrhea. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu, which is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.
Symptoms of Norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea, and stomach cramping. Other, less common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and general sense of fatigue.
About 1 in every 15 Americans will get Norovirus illness each year. Most people get better in 1 to 2 days, but Norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions; it can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.
Norovirus can spread quickly from person to person in crowded, closed places like long-term care facilities, daycare centers, schools, hotels, and cruise ships. People with Norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least 3 days after they recover, but some people may be contagious for even longer.
Antibiotics will not help if you have Norovirus illness. This is because antibiotics fight against bacteria, not viruses.
Protect Yourself and Your Family
Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers.
Always wash hands before eating or preparing food. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water although they help eliminate many germs.
People with Norovirus illness should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces after throwing up or having diarrhea by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. You can also use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus.
If available, wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling. The items should be washed with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.
For more information call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).