5 Facts About Norovirus

NOVEMBER 27, 2016
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus contributes to about 19 to 21 million illnesses each year.1 Norovirus also contributes to causes about 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths annually.1 These 5 important facts can help to prevent the spread of norovirus.
  1. Norovirus is highly contagious.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can be spread from an infected person, and through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. In fact, it only takes 18 viral particles to infect a person.1  Norovirus can be transmitted through vomit and feces.  Unfortunately, individuals can become infected with norovirus more than once. Individuals are most likely to become infected in cooler months, especially from November to April.

  1. Norovirus causes gastroenteritis.

Norovirus can cause gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines..  The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

Other symptoms may include fever, headache, and body aches. The vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, with symptoms including decreased urination, dry mouth and throat, and dizziness. Children and infants experiencing dehydration may cry with few or no tears and have dry diapers.

Symptoms typically develop 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus and usually last 1 to 3 days.1,2  Instruct patients to contact their physician if they develop diarrhea that persists or if they experience severe vomiting, bloody stools, abdominal pain, or dehydration.

  1. Adults and children can become infected with norovirus.

Counsel patients on the following risk factors for developing norovirus:2

  • Being immunocompromised

  • Consuming food that is handled with unsanitary procedures

  • Living with a child attending preschool or daycare

  • Children attending preschool or daycare

  • Living in close quarters, such as nursing homes

  • Staying in hotels, resorts, cruise ships, or other destinations with people in close quarters

 
  1. There is no treatment, just supportive care.

There is no specific medication that can be used to treat norovirus.  Since norovirus is a viral infection, antibiotics cannot be used. Educate patients infected with norovirus to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. Recommend oral rehydration fluids such as Pedialyte for children and adults to replace important electrolytes lost from diarrhea and vomiting.  Severe dehydration may require hospitalization with intravenous fluids.

  1. There are a variety of tips to prevent the spread of norovirus.

Research is being conducted for a vaccine to prevent norovirus; however, there is no vaccine currently available for prevention or treatment.1 Educate patients on the following tips that can help prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Wash your hands carefully with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.  It is also important to avoid touching your mouth.  If soap and water are not available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.1

  • Carefully rinse fruits and vegetables and cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.3

  • Individuals with norovirus should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for at least 2 days after they recover.3

  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaner.

  • Machine wash and dry laundry thoroughly that may be contaminated with vomit or stool.  Handle soiled items carefully with disposable gloves and wash your hands after to prevent the spread of norovirus.

References

1. Prevent the spread of norovirus.  CDC website.  Accessed November 18, 2016.

2. Norovirus infection. Mayo Clinic websiteAccessed November 18, 2016.
3. Norovirus (Norwalk virus.) US Department of Health & Human Services.  Accessed November 18, 2016.








Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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