Norovirus is one of the common viruses that only a few have heard of. Take note that it is responsible for causing gastroenteritis in different countries all over the globe. Even though it is infamous for causing outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea on cruise ships, norovirus can cause gastroenteritis, thousands of hospitalizations and even deaths.
Even if norovirus is common, why do some people have not heard about it? This is due to the fact that many do not actually know when they have acquired norovirus. Instead, they simply blame the symptoms on stomach flu, food poisoning or other gastrointestinal infection.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of norovirus are quite similar to other causes of gastroenteritis such as watery diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration. Other symptoms that can manifest include abdominal cramping, nausea, body aches, low-grade fever and fatigue.
Individuals typically become sick within 12-48 hours after being exposed to norovirus due to direct exposure to an individual who is sick, contact with a contaminated object or eating contaminated food. Luckily, many individuals recover rapidly over the diarrhea and vomiting in just 1-3 days. The symptoms can also last longer up to 4-6 days among the elderly and young children who are susceptible to the norovirus.
How to prevent norovirus
At the present, there is no cure for norovirus infections, thus it is vital to observe preventive measures before they occur. You can prevent norovirus from spreading if an individual is sick as well as avoid infections with the following:
- Wash hands on a regular basis using water and soap
- Avoid eating raw oysters
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating
- Surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected using a bleach-based household cleaner and wash any clothing that has been contaminated
- An individual with the infection should avoid preparing and cooking food for others for at least 3 days
- Those who recently had diarrhea should avoid swimming in a pool
In addition, as part of healthy swimming habits, children should be encouraged not to swallow any water in a pool.
Important facts about norovirus
- Once an individual acquires a norovirus infection, the treatment is usually focused on keeping the body properly hydrated.
- Norovirus is highly contagious and often responsible for causing outbreaks on cruise ships as well as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, restaurants and daycare centers.
- A stool sample can be tested for norovirus but this is not performed routinely by most doctors due to the short course of the infection.
- Similar to the flu and other viral infections, individuals do not develop immunity to norovirus and can acquire the infection again.
It is important to note that a norovirus vaccine is already under testing. Some experts even suggest a combination of norovirus and rotavirus vaccine to help prevent both common causes of viral gastroenteritis.