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Norovirus - signs and symptoms

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines (acute gastroenteritis). People of all ages can catch it. There is no specific medicine to treat people with norovirus illness. Antibiotic drugs will not help because they fight bacteria, not viruses. 

The most common symptoms are:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • stomach pain

Other symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • body aches

 You can get norovirus from:

  • Having direct contact with an infected person
  • Consuming contaminated food or water
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth

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. If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill, and vomit or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.

You are most contagious:

  • when you have symptoms of norovirus illness, especially vomiting, and
  • during the first few days after you recover from norovirus illness.

However, studies have shown that you can still spread norovirus for two weeks or more after you feel better.

To protect yourself and others from Norovirus:

  • Wash your hands often (especially after using the toilet or changing diapers; always before eating, preparing, or handling food; and before giving yourself or others medicine);
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables;
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly;
  • Stay home when sick and for 2 days after symptoms stop;
  • Avoid preparing food for others when sick and for 2 days after symptoms stop;
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, wearing rubber or disposable gloves, and by wiping the entire area with paper towels.  Follow with disinfecting the area using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. The cleaner should be left on the affected area for at least 5 minutes, then the surface cleaned again with soap and hot water.  Cleaning soiled laundry, taking out the trash, and washing your hands after cleaning are very important final steps!
  • Wash laundry thoroughly, handling soiled laundry wearing rubber or disposable gloves.  Wash items with detergent and hot water at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry at the highest heat setting.  

If you or your child contracts this virus, follow these guidelines:

  • Prevent dehydration.  Drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration. Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine can help with mild dehydration.  Dehydration can lead to serious health issues. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization for treatment.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration in children:
    • Child may cry with few or no tears; and/or
    • Child may act unusually sleepy or fussy.
Contact your doctor with concerns.

To learn more about this very contagious virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:  https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus.