March 17, 2023
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Norovirus, which can infect adults and children throughout the year but is more prevalent from November to April, is now present in the local community.

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines called gastroenteritis with symptoms occurring 24-48 hours after infection. Noroviruses are the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus "can result in making you feel extremely ill accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea many times a day," along with general nausea and abdominal pain. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, and body aches.

"When some people get infected with norovirus, they usually claim they have food poisoning, which is entirely possible, or they refer to their symptoms as having the 'stomach bug' or 'stomach flu,' while in the U.K. it is called the 'winter vomiting bug,'" said Dr. Armando Paez, chief, Infectious Diseases at Baystate Health.

"The term 'stomach flu' is a misnomer because the illness has no relation to the flu, which is caused by the influenza virus, which is primarily a respiratory virus, and is still circulating in our communities," said Dr. Paez.

How to Treat Norovirus

"Thankfully, one usually recovers from the symptoms of norovirus infection in 2-3 days, while the flu can last up to a week with a lingering cough or tiredness," he added.

Like many viral infections, there is no cure for the norovirus infection other than supportive care for your symptoms, including:

  • Replacing fluid losses by drinking oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes to help to prevent further dehydration
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Eating only plain foods such as soup, toast, rice, pasta, saltine crackers
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines to relieve nausea, fever, aches, and with caution, anti-diarrhea agents

"Older adults, adults with a weakened immune system, and adults with severe diarrhea or symptoms of dehydration should contact their doctors. Always check with your child's pediatrician before giving them any over-the-counter medicines, especially Imodium, Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate," Dr. Paez said.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends that if your child has viral gastroenteritis, give them an oral rehydration solution—such as Pedialyte, Naturalyte, Infalyte, and CeraLyte—as directed to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Oral rehydration solutions are liquids that contain glucose and electrolytes. Talk with a doctor about giving these solutions to your infant. Infants should continue to drink breast milk or formula as usual.

"Thankfully, one usually recovers from the symptoms of norovirus infection in 2-3 days."
Dr. Armando Paez

How Contagious is Norovirus?

Norovirus is extremely contagious. You can get infected with the virus by accidentally getting tiny particles of feces or vomit from an infected person to your mouth, or from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, by touching a surface that has become contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, or by having direct contact with someone who is infected with norovirus such as by caring for them or sharing food or eating utensils with them.

"Similar to protecting yourself from many viruses, you should practice proper hand hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water to help prevent the spread of norovirus. Unfortunately, hand sanitizers usually do not work against this virus," said Dr. Paez.

Also, if you are sick, do not prepare food for others at least two days have passed after your symptoms have resolved. Clean and disinfect any area contaminated with vomit or feces that can harbor this virus.

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