Norovirus spreads very easily and causes vomiting and diarrhea. There’s no vaccine to prevent infection and no drug to treat it. Wash your hands often and follow simple tips to stay healthy.
Noroviruses are a group of related viruses. Infection with these viruses causes gastroenteritis (GAS-tro-en-ter-I-tis), which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This leads to stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Anyone Can Get Norovirus
Anyone can be infected with noroviruses and get sick. Also, you can get norovirus illness more than once during your life. The illness often begins suddenly. You may feel very sick, with stomach cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Noroviruses are the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States. CDC estimates that each year on average 19 to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis are caused by noroviruses. That means about 1 in every 15 Americans will get norovirus illness each year. Norovirus is also estimated to cause 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths each year in the United States.
Many Names, Same Symptoms
You may hear norovirus illness called “food poisoning” or “stomach flu.” It is true that food poisoning can be caused by noroviruses. But, other germs and chemicals can also cause food poisoning. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.
Symptoms of norovirus infection usually include cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Other, less common symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and general sense of fatigue.
Norovirus illness is usually not serious. Most people get better in 1 to 3 days. But, norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions. It can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.
You may get dehydrated if you are not able to drink enough liquids to replace the fluids lost from vomiting or having diarrhea many times a day. Symptoms of dehydration include a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. Children who are dehydrated may also cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.
The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids. Oral rehydration fluids are the most helpful for severe dehydration. But other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. However, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals that are lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.
If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, contact your doctor. For more information on norovirus and dehydration, see norovirus treatment.