Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis in people. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines.
Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. People can become infected with the virus in several ways:
- By eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
- By touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth, and
- By having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).
The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Less commonly, people may experience a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. Most people recover within 1 or 2 days, and they have no long-term health effects related to their illness. In general, diarrhea is more common in children and vomiting is more common in adults.
There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection, and there is no drug to treat people who are infected with the virus.
You can decrease your chance of coming in contact with noroviruses by following these preventive steps:
- Frequently wash your hands, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
- Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
- Flush or discard any vomitus and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
Persons who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food while they have symptoms and for at least 2-3 days after they recover from their illness. Food that may have been contaminated by an ill person should be disposed of properly.
Useful External Links
- CDC: Norovirus – General information, local outbreak information, control issues, and more
- Michigan Department of Community Health: Norovirus – General information, control issues and county guidelines for environmental cleaning and disinfection of norovirus
- Washtenaw County Public Health Department: Norovirus – General information, cleaning and control guidelines