Norovirus is a severe viral infection disturbing the balance of gastro intestine. Individuals affected with norovirus will develop sudden vomiting/diarrhea with abdominal cramps. The symptoms would last for few days and the person will recover automatically without taking any treatment. However noroviruses can infect severely on infants and young children leading to dehydration.
This viral infection is contagious spreading quickly from infected food/water and by close contact with infected person. Norovirus is caused by group of viruses which would affect the soft lining of the stomach causing inflammation. This viral infection originated in Norwalk, Ohio and hence the name Norovirus.
Eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water is the main reason for getting norovirus infection. Consuming raw meat/uncooked or undercooked oysters can lead to diarrhea and stomach pain. The virus would have infected the food item and by consuming the food unknowingly you are infested with virus. You may get this infection even by simply touching the objects that are exposed to viruses and touching your nose or eyes with the same finger.
Norovirus spreads quickly and can easily pass from one person to another in social setups like day care, nursing home, clinic and close quarters. These viruses can live in any temperature and on any surface and hence it is passed on to others by sharing the utensils. Suppose a man employed in a hotel is infected with norovirus he may spread the virus to any number of people by simply touching the food products before serving it. Some of the food products through which this virus spreads include salads (freshly cut vegetables), oysters and raspberries.
Some of the signs of norovirus infection are nausea, vomiting, passing watery stool, abdominal cramps, dehydration, loss of weight and low grade fever. Incubation period for norovirus is roughly a day or two and shortly after exposure it will cause diarrhea. The virus is usually excreted through feces and the symptoms will last for 2-3 days after the exit of virus. Some people may develop body pain and muscle pain due to loss of nutrients.
Risk Factors :
People with weakened immunity and having vulnerable diseases like AIDS, people living in unsanitary environments and working in food processing centers, people who are frequently traveling and staying in new hotels and resorts and those employed in day care and nursing homes are likely to develop norovirus. Often, this infection will clear off within few days but in rare cases, it can cause dehydration and malnutrition.
Norovirus infection can be diagnosed easily by the above symptoms or by checking the stool sample.
Antibiotics are not useful in managing the symptoms of norovirus since it is not caused by bacteria. In healthy individuals, the symptoms will fade within few days without any treatment but for some people antiviral medications are given. Even without taking any drugs you can manage vomiting and diarrhea by simply drinking lot of fluids and restoring lost balance of ions. You can take plenty of fresh fruit juices and electrolytes. Avoid taking coffee/tea or alcohol since it may worsen the symptoms. Over the counter hydration drinks like Pedialyte can be given if you suspect norovirus infection for your child.
Norovirus infection being contagious can spread quickly and hence you need to be cautious and hygienic. For those who are working with lot of people like nursing home and in social setups following healthy habits is absolutely necessary to prevent this infection. You should wash the hands for 10 seconds (minimum) before eating. In case that is not possible you can use hand sanitizer after using the toilet or changing diapers. Do not eat undercooked or raw foods.
If you have already developed norovirus infection you need to take leave from cooking since you are likely to spread the infection to others by handling food substances. Using bleaching agents that contain chlorine is recommended on contaminated surface/areas to prevent this infection.