What is Norovirus?
Norovirus is the name for a group of viruses which cause acute gastroenteritis, aka “The Stomach Flu”. According to the CDC, Norovirus causes between 19-21 MILLION cases of the illness each year in the US and is the #1 cause of vomiting and diarrheal illness in the US. Anyone can contract the illness and unfortunately a person can become ill with the same virus more than once and up to 5 times in a lifetime. Cooler months are the peak time for Norovirus infections. Norovirus is not Influenza; influenza is a respiratory illness and Norovirus is a stomach and intestinal illness. The flu vaccine does not prevent this illness.
The illness typically begins with acute onset of nausea and vomiting with diarrhea following soon afterward. The vomiting phase of the illness typically lasts 12-24 hours with frequent, up to every 20-30 minutes, of vomiting. Some people can have just diarrhea, while others will be hit with many symptoms. Below is a table of common symptoms of Norovirus infections:
Norovirus is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS!!! A sick individual can shed BILLIONS of viral particles while ill. Unfortunately, it can take as little as 18 viral particles to infect someone!!!
Someone ill with Norovirus is contagious from the moment they start to feel ill up to 3 days following the onset of illness. Some people can shed the virus for up to 2 weeks following the illness but it is not clear if they remain contagious the entire time.
The virus is found in vomit and stool and spreads very easily from hand to mouth. You can contract the illness from:
- Eating contaminated food
- Touching surfaces or objects with the virus on them
- Direct contact with a sick person.
The time from exposure to onset of illness, incubation period, is 12-48 hours!
There are no vaccines or medications to treat the illness so treatment is supportive while your immune system fights off the illness.
While ill, it is important to drink small quantities, about 1/2 oz, of clear fluid like Pedialyte, low calorie sports drink, oral rehydration fluid or clear juice frequently. Popsicles are an easy way to take in small amounts of fluid over time. Keep drinking small amounts even though the vomiting continues as there is absorption of the fluids which will prevent dehydration. Once the vomiting has resolved, slow advancement of the diet to soft foods is ok.
What not to do while still vomiting:
- Drink a lot of fluid at once
- Stop drinking
- Eat food
- Leave the house
When to bring your child to the doctor
Bring your child to the doctor if your child has been vomiting for more than 24 hours and is refusing to drink liquids, is too listless to drink or has not urinated at least twice in 24 hours. Please do not bring your child to the doctor when the vomiting starts as the virus can easily spread to many others. Call us if you have questions – our nurses would be happy to talk with you to see if it is appropriate to come into the office or stay home.
Preventing exposure is critical to both prevention and containment of the illness. The most important preventive measure is GOOD HAND HYGIENE!
Here are some prevention tips:
- Wash your hands with hot/warm water and soap. Be meticulous with getting all parts of you hands and fingers.
- Alcohol based sanitizers are ok if soap and water are not available but they do not eliminate Norovirus from your hands.
- Do not prepare food when ill.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces using a bleach-based cleaner. If you don’t have a bleach cleaner, make your own with 1 1/2 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water.
- Wash all contaminated clothes and linens immediately. Handle them carefully and use rubber gloves if available. Use the maximum available cycle length and at least hot water cycle if you can.
DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILD TO DAYCARE OR SCHOOL FOR AT LEAST 48 HOURS !!!
DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILD TO DAYCARE OR SCHOOL IF THEY VOMITED DURING THE NIGHT AND THEY FEEL BETTER IN THE MORNING; HE/SHE IS STILL CONTAGIOUS!!!