Norovirus Infection

1 What is Norovirus Infection?

Norovirus infection is an infection brought by a highly contagious virus that usually spread through contaminated water or food. The infection can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting accompanied with abdominal pain that typically begin with 1-2 days after exposure.

Most people show symptoms for one to three days, and symptoms usually subside without needing treatment.

For some people, particularly infants, the elderly, and those with compromised health, the infection can cause severe dehydration that may require special attention.

Norovirus infection frequently occur in crowded environments like hospitals, schools, cruise ships, and nursing homes.

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2 Symptoms

Norovirus infection manifests a number of symptoms, including:

The symptoms typically show up within 24 to 48 hours after virus exposure. People with the virus usually recover after three days. While some affected people may not show any symptom, they can remain contagious.

See a doctor at once if you develop the signs and symptoms, particularly diarrhea and vomiting, that do not go away after a few days.

3 Causes

Norovirus is highly contagious. This virus is shed through the feces of infected animals and humans.

It is transmitted by consumption of contaminated food and water, being in contact with a contaminated object, and being in close contact with a person infected by the norovirus.

Norovirus is resistant to most disinfectants, so it is very difficult to eliminate.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Typically, the diagnosis of norovirus infection will be based on the symptoms, but a stool sample can help. If you have compromised immune system or other health problems, a stool exam may be necessary to confirm the condition and provide the needed medication.

To make the most out of your doctor appointment, you may write down the important details.

List down the symptoms you are experiencing, including when the symptoms started to show up and how long have you been feeling them.

List down the medications, supplements, and vitamins you are recently taking. Your doctor may ask several questions like the frequency of your diarrhea and vomiting or if the vomit or diarrhea has blood, mucus or bile.

5 Treatment

In healthy people, a norovirus infection does not require treatment, since the illness resolves on its own in a matter of days. Nevertheless, fluid replacement is vital to prevent dehydration.

Drinking lots of fluids is required, and if drinking enough fluid is not possible, your doctor may suggest IV fluid replacement. At times, the doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications for diarrhea.

6 Prevention

A highly-contagious disease, a norovirus infection can be prevented by:

  • Thorough washing of the hands especially after changing a soiled diaper or using the toilet.
  • Avoiding possibly contaminated water and food. Do not consume anything that has been prepared by a sick person.
  • Before eating, wash fruits and vegetables carefully. 
  • Making sure seafood is cooked through before eating. 
  • Disposing of fecal matter and vomit with care, in order to avoid the virus from spreading by air. 
  • Disinfecting with chlorine bleach solution.
  • Wearing gloves, especially when dealing with possibly infected people or things. 

To prevent transmitting the virus to others, always wash your hands. If children get infected, keep them monitored at home. Refrain from traveling until the signs and symptoms totally ended.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with norovirus infection.

Keep oral hydration solution on hand especially if young children are involved.

Pedialyte is a good brand and is readily available.

Adults may drink more water and sports drink and sipping broth can also help keep electrolytes balanced.

Soft drinks and fruit juices, on the other hand, are laden with sugar and can make situations even worse.

You may limit vomiting by eating small, frequent meals composed of bland foods, such as potatoes, rice, bananas, yogurt, and crackers.

8 Risks and Complications

You may have a higher risk of contracting norovirus if:

  • Your immune system is compromised or weak
  • You are exposed to unsanitary practices
  • You live with a school-age child/children
  • You stay in closed, crowded places like cruise ships, resorts, and hotels
  • You work in a hospital or nursing home

Most of the time, the infection clears up after several days without causing any complication. For immunocompromised people, however, the infection can result to severe dehydration and malnutrition. In rare cases, norovirus can cause death.