Norovirus

Young women's version of this guide
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Sick TeenagerNorovirus is a very contagious virus and the most common cause of the stomach flu and food poisoning in the United States. Anyone, young or old can get the Norovirus one or more times in their life. It’s especially dangerous to young children and older adults. The good news is the Norovirus can be prevented with good hand washing.

How is the Norovirus spread?

You can become infected with the Norovirus by accidentally eating food or liquids that have been contaminated (unclean) with just a very tiny spec of feces (stool) or vomit from an infected person. For example, eating food in a restaurant that was made by someone who is sick with the Norovirus or not washing raw fruits and vegetables that have been contaminated before eating them. Other ways to get the Norovirus:

  • touching something that has the Norovirus germ on it then touching your mouth
  • sharing food/drinks or silverware with someone who is sick with the Norovirus
If you get sick from the Norovirus, remember that you are still contagious for a couple of days even after your symptoms (such as loose stools and vomiting) stop.

What are the symptoms of the Norovirus?

Norovirus usually affects your stomach and intestines. Symptoms will usually last 12-48 hours. The medical term for this is called “acute gastroenteritis,” pronounced: a-cute gas-tro-en-ter-eye-tis. The most common symptoms include:

  • diarrhea (loose to watery bowel movements)
  • nausea (feeling like you have to throw up)
  • vomiting (throwing up or puking)
  • pain in stomach

Other symptoms can include:

  • fever or temperature
  • headache
  • body aches

*People who become sick with the Norovirus often throw up and have diarrhea many times in a day. This can cause your body to get dehydrated (your body loses too much water/fluid).

Symptoms of dehydration to watch for include:

  • urinate or pee less
  • mouth and/or throat feel dry
  • dizzy when standing

*If you have any of the above symptoms, call your health care provider right away.

How is Norovirus treated?

Because the Norovirus is a “virus” and not caused from a “bacteria,” medicine such as antibiotics don’t work. It’s important to prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If you or someone you are helping to care for has symptoms of dehydration, call the health care provider right away. People who are very dehydrated and are unable to keep liquids down, may need to go to the hospital for IV (in the vein) fluids.

Is there a way to lessen my risk for getting the Norovirus?

Yes! The best way to lessen your risk for getting or spreading the Norovirus is by carefully washing your hands with soap and water many times during the day, especially

  • after using the bathroom/toilet
  • after touching surfaces that may have been contaminated
  • after changing diapers

Other ways to lessen your risk of coming in contact with the Norovirus:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before touching your face, especially your mouth and nose!
  • When visiting a public bathroom, use a paper towel to turn the faucets off and another to open the door when you are ready to leave.
  • Wash fruits and veggies before preparing and eating them.
  • Cook oysters and shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
Be sure to continue washing your hands very carefully even after your symptoms are gone. Don’t cook or make meals for others while you are sick and for 3 days afterwards. If you think food in your refrigerator has been contaminated, throw it out with care. Handle soiled sheets or other contaminated laundry carefully. Wash sheets, towels and clothes in hot water for the maximum amount of time, double rinse and machine dry. When cleaning contaminated surfaces (such as the bathroom), wear disposable gloves and use a product that contains bleach.