Norovirus infection can cause stomach inflammation in both children and adults. The virus can spread through seafood, contaminated food and water, crowded places, and infected persons.
Norovirus infections can strike any time of the year, but it is in full swing during the winter, and hence it is called “the winter stomach bug.”
The first confirmed norovirus outbreak in the US was in 1979. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noroviruses cause 19 to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis in the United States every year.
Children under the age of 5 are more susceptible to this infection. The CDC says that norovirus accounts for 58% of foodborne illnesses in the United States.
What Are the Symptoms of Norovirus Infection?
Symptoms usually begin after 12 to 48 hours of being exposed to the virus and lasts 1 to 3 days. Typical norovirus symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Muscle pain
- Low-grade fever
These symptoms are generally not life-threatening, but vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration. Visit your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms.
How Long Does Norovirus Last?
Norovirus can last for up to 2 weeks or longer, depending on the type of virus you are infected with. The virus will become less infectious over time. In most cases, you can get back to your routine life after you have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
Like other viruses, noroviruses cannot be treated with antibodies or antiviral drugs that are designed to destroy bacteria. In healthy people, the illness will usually go away on its own within two days. In most cases, people do not develop any long-term problems from the infection.
Recovery and Prevention Tips
If you or your children get infected with norovirus, the best thing you can do is manage the symptoms and stay hydrated. Follow these tips to recover quickly and prevent the spread of the virus.
1.) Drink Plenty of Fluids
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially water and natural juices, to prevent dehydration. Give an oral rehydration solution to your children to replace lost electrolytes and fluids.
Avoid sugary drinks, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol, as they can worsen diarrhea and dehydration. Please do not take it lightly and visit an urgent care center in Fountain Valley or your nearby location if you have developed severe dehydration.
2.) Follow a Healthy Diet
Eat foods that are easy to digest, such as plain crackers, low-fiber bread, sugar-free applesauce, and plain baked potatoes. These can help you avoid additional stomach irritation.
Follow a BRAT diet that includes bananas, applesauce, rice, and toast, which can reduce diarrhea.
When you are sick, you should strictly avoid:
- High-fiber foods
- Sugary foods
- Fatty or greasy foods
- Spicy foods
- Hard-to-digest foods
- Dairy products
3.) Handle and Prepare Food Safely
Wash vegetables and fruits before cooking and eating. Cook shellfish, oysters, and other seafood thoroughly, as norovirus can survive temperatures beyond 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you are sick, you should not prepare food or take care of others. People working in day-cares, schools, restaurants, and long-term care facilities should follow this until their symptoms stop.
4.) Practice Proper Hand Hygiene
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating, handling, or preparing food, after using the toilet, or changing diapers, and before taking medicines.
5.) Clean and Disinfect Surfaces
Clean and disinfect your household surfaces and restrooms with bleach-based household cleaners. Remove and wash any infected clothing immediately.
There are different types of noroviruses, so already having been exposed to one type does not mean that you won’t be affected by other types.
You may get infected with any type of norovirus at any time of the year. Following these recovery tips and visiting your doctor as soon as you notice any of the symptoms will help you have a faster recovery.
Dr. Peter Kim has been in practice in Costa Mesa since 1995, and favors a “team” approach to child, adult and senior healthcare: working with you to find the best fit. He’s a sports medicine trained, part of the Paleo physician’s network, and serves as the Medical Director for the Baker Street Family Care Center. He enjoys working with patients and families who are training or want to get back into an active lifestyle.