Norovirus Causes, Prevention, and Symptoms

What Is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a very contagious group of viruses that causes gastroenteritis illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a new strain of norovirus has been discovered and that the United States experiences more norovirus outbreaks than most other countries, making it all the more important to consult a seasoned norovirus lawyer if you’ve become ill with the viruses. Norovirus, named after the first recorded outbreak in Norwalk, OH, is more commonly known as the stomach flu.

The virus spreads directly from person to person, though infection can spread through food, drinks, and contaminated surfaces. The most common sources include ready-to-eat foods prepared by infected employees, fresh produce, and any food items contaminated with feces or vomit from an infected individual.

What Are the Symptoms of Norovirus?

Infected individuals will experience symptoms within 24 to 48 hours of exposure. Symptoms may then last up to 60 hours and alleviate on their own, though sometimes further treatment is necessary. Symptoms begin quickly and include stomach cramps, fever, watery diarrhea, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle soreness. While most of these symptoms aren’t serious, victims must be aware of hydration.

Diarrhea and vomiting result in dramatic fluid loss, which quickly becomes dangerous, especially for young children and the elderly. Continuing to boost fluid and nutrient intake are critical to ensuring a full recovery. During this time, it’s important to avoid sugary drinks, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages, since this can worsen dehydration. Water and sport drinks are your best options for staying hydrated. In severe cases, our food poisoning lawyers have seen cases in which IV fluids were necessary to ensure that the individual with norovirus was hydrated.

How Can I Prevent Norovirus?

Humans are the only source of norovirus, so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, the food you handle, and the presence of any infected persons. Washing hands, properly preparing food, and consciously avoiding contact with contaminated objects will greatly reduce the likelihood of contracting a norovirus. To prevent norovirus, it’s important to:

  • Frequently wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.
  • Washing vegetables and fruits before consuming them.
  • Disinfecting surfaces that may have been in contact with vomit or feces.
  • Properly discarding vomitus and stool.
  • Refraining from food preparation if you are infected.

Since norovirus spreads from person to person, outbreaks are not uncommon within long-term care facilities and other crowded places with residents (such as universities). Strict compliance with good hygiene practices hinders the spread of the virus and can greatly decrease the risk of outbreak.

Multiple Names, Same Symptoms

Even though norovirus is known by many other names, such as the “stomach flu,” it’s important to remember that it is not related to the flu, which is a respiratory illness. Norovirus is more akin to food poisoning than the influenza virus.

The CDC reveals that 49 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States result from the norovirus. Other common causes of foodborne illness include bacteria, chemicals, and parasites. This stresses the crucial importance of adherence to proper hygiene, such as washing hands and washing foods before meal preparation.

Since no antiviral drug can treat the norovirus, good hygiene is key to minimizing infection. If you’ve recently been stricken with the norovirus, avoid food preparation for at least two to three days after symptoms subside, as you could still spread the norovirus to someone else.

Encouraging infected persons to avoid crowded areas and contact with other individuals will decrease the likelihood of spreading the illness. Be sure to wash your clothing or linens after the symptoms subside, since the germs can survive on contaminated surfaces.

Click here to learn about other types of food poisoning