Norovirus Symptoms, Risk Factors, Prevention, and Treatment 

In the US, the norovirus causes up to 21 million gastroenteritis cases and more than 685 million cases across the globe. Children with norovirus cases reach 200 million, with up to 50,000 cases resulting in death, especially in developing nations. Diarrhoea and vomiting are the primary norovirus symptoms, but there are other symptoms as well.

The proper name of the norovirus is “Norwalk virus,” after the town of Norwalk in Ohio, US, where the virus had its first outbreak in the 70s. It has other names, including winter vomiting bug and stomach flu.

This highly infectious bug primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract, and the symptoms appear in the infected person’s body within 24 hours to two days. But the contagiousness of the norovirus can be as long as three weeks through body fluids and faeces.

Norovirus symptoms

The norovirus causes acute gastroenteritis that causes stomach and intestines inflammation. This is a foodborne disease that is characterized by nausea, severe abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, and vomiting.

Diarrhoea caused by the norovirus is usually bloodless and can occur many times a day. On the other hand, abdominal cramps fluctuate in their intensity and affect the entire abdominal area. Some norovirus patients can also develop headaches and fever, but the former is extremely rare.

According to the CDC-US and NHS-UK, symptoms of the norovirus can also include aching arms and legs. In addition, constant vomiting and diarrhoea can also cause dehydration, especially in children.

When dehydration sets in, the children infected with norovirus will exhibit symptoms including dry mouth, less frequency of urination and dizziness while standing.

Norovirus risk factors and causes

Norovirus is a foodborne illness, so it spreads through virus-contaminated food and drinks. Raw food and vegetables and undercooked food such as oysters are primarily responsible for the norovirus outbreak. Because it can spread quickly, norovirus has a high propensity for causing endemics.

A norovirus-infected person can also spread the virus through direct contact by shaking hands or sharing food, drinks, or utensils. Close contact with the infected person can also spread the virus.

When a person with norovirus vomits or passes stool, the virus can also spread through the air and contaminate surfaces. Other people coming in contact with these surfaces or living in the same environment can also get infected. This is why norovirus thrives in close quarters such as schools, daycare centres, restaurants, nursing homes, and common toilets.

Norovirus prevention

There is no specific program or antiviral drug for norovirus, so preventative measures are the best options.

  • Always wash raw vegetables and fruits before consumption
  • Refrain from eating undercooked food, especially seafood
  • Wash hands thoroughly after using the washroom
  • Avoid cooking or sharing food with others when sick with the norovirus
  • Stay at home for at least two days if infected with norovirus
  • Refrain from being in the same environment with someone with the virus

Norovirus treatment

  • Replace the lost body fluids through oral or intravenous rehydration
  • A qualified physician may prescribe antiemetics for vomiting and analgesics for abdominal cramps
  • Medical attention for children and seniors with chronic or autoimmune diseases may be necessary

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