What is the “norovirus”?
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause an intestinal illness. It might be referred to as the “stomach flu” though this is not the flu. The flu vaccine does not protect against this virus. These viruses are a major cause of outbreaks of infection in closed and crowded environments, such as hospitals, nursing homes and cruise ships. The incubation period for norovirus infection is usually 24 to 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and signs and symptoms usually last one to five days.
What are the symptoms?
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Watery or loose diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Low-grade fever
Some people with norovirus infection may show no signs or symptoms. However, they may continue to shed the virus in their feces for several days up to several weeks following infection, potentially infecting other people.
How is the norovirus transmitted?
You can contract norovirus infection by touching or ingesting anything contaminated with the virus, which is shed in the feces and vomit of infected human or animal. Noroviruses are highly contagious.
Methods of norovirus infection include:
- Eating contaminated food, which accounts for between one-half and two-thirds of all food-borne illness
- Drinking contaminated water
- Ingesting infected mucus or breathing airborne norovirus particles
- Touching your hand to your mouth after your hand has been in contact with a contaminated surface or object
- Having close contact with an infected person and then transmitting the virus from your hands to your mouth
Noroviruses are difficult to eradicate because they can withstand hot and cold temperatures as well as most disinfectants.
How do you treat the norovirus?
There’s no specific treatment for norovirus infection, and recovery generally depends on the health of your immune system. In most otherwise healthy people, the illness usually resolves within a few days.
The goals of treatment in severe cases are to replace lost fluids and to alleviate symptoms of severe diarrhea and vomiting. Fluids that are helpful are Gatorade, Sprite, but not caffeinated drinks.
How can I protect myself from the norovirus?
Norovirus infection is highly contagious. Follow these suggestions to help prevent norovirus infection from spreading:
- Practice good hygiene, including thorough hand washing. Wash your hands before eating.
- Don’t consume water and food that may be contaminated. Throw out any food you suspect may be contaminated.
- Disinfect virus-contaminated areas with a solution of detergent and chlorine bleach. These areas are toilets, sinks, door handles.
- If you live in a residence hall with community bathrooms, talk to your Resident Assistant about designating one “stall” for sick students.
- Routinely disinfect surfaces and furniture in common areas, such as lobbies and dining rooms. Where possible, allow bleach to stay on surfaces longer than 10 minutes.
- Ask a Resident Life Staff member for assistance to clean up vomit.
- Avoid consuming raw shellfish, which may have been harvested from infected waters.
- Avoid contact sports if you have acute gastroenteritis.
If you work in a food-handling job, working with children or people who have suppressed immune systems, and you’ve been sick with norovirus infection, don’t return to work 72 hours following cessation of your signs and symptoms so that you avoid infecting other people.
If you are experiencing norovirus symptoms: please call or come to SHS to verify your symptoms.
Do NOT eat at the cafeteria. SHS can give you meal tickets. Do not go to class.
Where can I get more information?
Search for Norovirus on these websites:
- CDC: www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html
- Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com