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About Norovirus

Noroviruses cause sporadic and epidemic gastrointestinal disease including gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say over 180,000 cases occur annually.

Symptoms and Treatment

The acute gastrointestinal illness, which can resolve within two days, results in symptoms that can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever

Like all viral infections, noroviruses are not affected by treatment with antibiotics.  However, as with any illness causing diarrhea and vomiting, a big concern with norovirus infection is dehydration, which can be especially problematic for children and seniors. It occurs when the body loses more fluids and salts (electrolytes) than it takes in.  If you have any concerns about dehydration or prolonged fever or vomiting, it’s important to contact your doctor at once.

Transmission and Prevention

Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. Both stool and vomit are infectious.  Unlike many foodborne pathogens, CDC says it is believed that noroviruses spread primarily from one infected person to another.

If you're concerned about noroviruses, it's a good idea to develop (and help children develop) habits that can reduce the risk of such infections. The following are suggestions from CDC and the International Food Information Council:

  • Wash hands carefully and often. Adults should wash their hands after using the toilet, helping a child use the toilet, serving or eating food. Children should wash their hands after using the toilet, after having their diapers changed (an adult should wash infant's or small child's hands) and before eating snacks or meals.
  • Disinfect toys, bathrooms and food preparation surfaces frequently, especially if a sick adult or child has been in the home.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.

You can't guarantee you or your family will never contract a norovirus infection, but these simple, hygienic measures will help reduce your risk.


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