Norovirus was initially known as Norwalk virus, after the name of the town of Norwalk, where the first outbreak of the disease happened. Norovirus is an RNA virus that causes acute gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea).
This enteric pathogen is highly contagious and spreads through contaminated food and water. Norovirus is responsible for more than 50% of foodborne diseases every year. Norovirus infection can occur in any season but is more common in winter. Therefore, it is also famous as the winter vomiting bug.
Symptoms of norovirus
Most symptoms of norovirus infection usually last for 1-2 days without sustaining side effects. The common signs and symptoms of norovirus infection are:
- Nausea and frequent vomiting
- Cramps in stomach
- Watery diarrhea
- Low-grade fever and sometimes feeling chills
- Body aches and muscle aches
Most of the symptoms don’t possess any harm, but frequent diarrhea and vomiting can drain the body’s fluid and leads to dehydration. The prominent symptoms of norovirus are similar to food poisoning (vomiting, cramps, and watery diarrhea). The doctors differentiate between these two by the microbiology of the stool test.
The symptoms of norovirus infection usually begin 1-2 days after ingesting virus-laden food or in close contact with an infected person. In most cases, people recover within one or two days without long-term side effects, but occasionally people with norovirus may have milder symptoms for a week or more. Sometimes, the carriers of norovirus have no symptoms at all but can still infect other persons.
How does norovirus transmit?
Norovirus is a contagious infection that spreads rapidly from contaminated food or drinks. The infected person sheds viruses in their vomiting or feces. From there, the virus can transfer to the surfaces, food, or water from the hands of the infected person who has not washed their hand appropriately after using the restroom. People can get the infection by:
- Consuming norovirus-infected food and beverages.
- Consuming raw or undercooked oysters picked from contaminated water.
- Accidently touching infected surfaces or objects and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.
- It can be transmitted from an infected person to others by sharing food or utensils, shaking hands, and other close contacts.
- Handling dirty diapers of infected children or elderly person
Complications of norovirus
Generally, norovirus doesn’t cause any complications after recovery. But, people with poor low immunity, children, and older people may suffer from weakness and dehydration-like symptoms, such as:
- Dry mouth and throat
- Less urination and dark yellow-colored urine
- Headaches and confusion
- Small kids tend to continuous crying
Contagiousness of norovirus
People recover within a few days after getting the infection but shed the virus through feces for up to eight weeks. Over time, it becomes less infectious, and the number of viruses sheds also decreases. But within this period, there is a chance you can infect other people. So, be extra cautious during this time interval.
Diagnosis of norovirus
Most of the symptoms are similar to food poisoning. The doctor can make a diagnosis based on symptoms associated with fever, chills, fatigue, and similar history in the family. After that, your doctor suggests a stool test confirm the norovirus infection.
Treatment of norovirus infection
Currently, there is no specific treatment available for norovirus. No antibacterial drugs are effective against this viral disease. Mostly, the patient recovers from infection within 2-3 days without any medical intervention. The doctors only recommend symptoms-specific treatment, such as:
- Antipyretic drugs for lowering the fever
- Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications and medicines to reduce nausea
- Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) to replenish the lost fluids
- In case of severe dehydration due to excessive vomiting and diarrhea, intravenous (I.V.) fluids
- Numerous home remedies are also very effective, including homemade oral rehydration solutions, broths, soups, easy-to-digest food, rice, banana, and yogurt.
- Do not consume alcohol or caffeinated drinks, as they can increase dehydration symptoms further.
Prevention of norovirus infection
The best way to stop the spreading of the virus is proper protection. A good hygiene practice is a key to interrupting the transmission of any infectious disease, including norovirus. The following are a few tips that can help to halt the spreading of norovirus:
- Adequately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the washroom, changing diapers, before preparing food, and before eating.
- Carefully discard contaminated items, such as tissues, dirty diapers, or vomiting bags.
- Don’t come in close contact or shake hands with infected people
- Thoroughly wash every fruit and vegetable.
- Properly cook seafood or avoid seafood during an outbreak
- After recovery of an infected house member, thoroughly clean all the surfaces.
Norovirus infection generally takes a few days to recover. So, in the meantime, stay hydrated and isolate yourself from others to prevent the spread of the virus.