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.
Norovirus is also the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States.
What is norovirus?
Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up.
What are the symptoms?
Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines or both. This is called acute gastroenteritis.
The most common symptoms:
- throwing up
- stomach pain
- body aches
A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.
How is norovirus spread?
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus. Anyone can get infected with norovirus and get sick. Also, you can get norovirus illness many times in your life. One 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.
You are most contagious
- 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. The CDC says 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, or
- having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness).
Norovirus can spread quickly in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks happen from November to April in the United States.
How do I prevent the spread of norovirus?
- Wash your hands carefully with soap and water—
- especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and
- always before eating, preparing, or handling food.
Take care in the kitchen
- Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly
- Be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant. They can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish.
When you are sick, do not prepare food or provide care for others
- The CDC said you should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick and for at least two days after symptoms stop.
- This also applies to sick workers in settings such as schools and daycares where they may expose people to norovirus.
Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces
- After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
- Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Wash laundry thoroughly
- Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool (feces).
Information from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention