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Norovirus: The Symptoms and Prevention of This All-Too-Popular "Stomach Flu Virus"

Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that account for more than 90 percent of stomach flu outbreaks in the United States each year. Stomach flu caused by norovirus is not the same as influenza (which is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus); rather it is sometimes referred to as viral gastroenteritis, which refers to an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

stomach flu norovirus

Over 90 percent of stomach flu outbreaks in the United States are caused by norovirus.

How Do You Get a Norovirus?

Noroviruses are highly contagious and are known for sweeping through schools, office buildings and other close quarters, and infecting a large number of people. In fact, norovirus is named after the "Norwalk virus" -- the original strain of norovirus, which caused a stomach flu outbreak at a Norwalk, Ohio school in 1968.

You can become infected with a norovirus via several routes:

  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes

  • Having direct contact with someone who is ill with norovirus (while caring for them, or by sharing foods or utensils, etc.)

  • Eating or drinking something that is contaminated with norovirus (in which case the illness is described as food poisoning)

The Symptoms of Norovirus

If you've had the stomach flu or food poisoning before, chances are that you remember. Noroviruses usually appear suddenly and make people violently ill for one or two days, during which you may vomit repeatedly, feel nauseas and have diarrhea.

However, the illness is usually self-limiting and will disappear after a day or two (though you can remain contagious for at least three days, and up to three weeks, after symptoms resolve). Symptoms commonly include:

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

  • Stomach cramps

  • Low-grade fever and/or chills

  • Headache and muscle aches

  • Fatigue

While most people with norovirus feel very ill, it's possible to have the virus and not know it. Studies suggest that as many as 30 percent of norovirus infections may be asymptomatic, which means they cause no symptoms but may still be transmissible.

Get the Deepest Level of Clean in Your Home and Office

Regularly cleaning surfaces in your home and office is an important part of avoiding norovirus and other contagious illnesses (just think how many times people touch your desk, doorknobs, and refrigerator handle in one day!).

PerfectClean Ultramicrofiber Cleaning Tools are ideal for this purpose; even hospitals, schools, leading hotels, and other leading commercial organizations use PerfectClean cloths due to their deep-cleaning performance and durability.

PerfectClean tools, with patented built-in antimicrobial protection, are made of 100%-safe ultramicrofibers that are only 3 microns in size, which is even smaller than many bacteria. They pick up anything in their path, down to those contaminants that cannot be seen with the naked eye!

Learn More and Order PerfectClean Cleaning Tools Now!

Who's at Risk, and When?

Anyone can become infected with a norovirus, particularly during its active "season," which, in the Northern Hemisphere, is between October and April. The illness tends to spread more rapidly among those in confined spaces, such as in day cares, nursing homes, dormitories, and cruise ships (just earlier this month, norovirus was responsible for sickening more than 700 people on a trans-Atlantic cruise).

Again, anyone can become infected, but children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

How to Avoid Getting Norovirus

Following some simple cautions will go a long way toward reducing your risk of norovirus this season. Experts recommend:

  • Washing your hands, and your children's hands, thoroughly, and often

  • Not sharing utensils, glasses or hand towels with others (including at home)

  • Avoiding close contact with those who have norovirus (if possible)

  • Cleaning surfaces in your home regularly, and especially after someone has been ill. We highly recommend the PerfectClean line of cleaning tools for this -- they clean down to a microscopic level, and have tools made specially for cleaning commonly touched objects, like doorknobs, refrigerator handles, computer screens and desktops

  • Choosing day cares that have separate rooms for changing tables and food preparation

  • Washing linens and clothing (using hot water and soap) that have been in contact with an infected person

  • Taking precautions while traveling

    • Drinking only sealed bottled water (and brushing your teeth with it)

    • Avoiding ice cubes

    • Avoiding raw foods that have been touched by human hands

    • Avoiding undercooked meat and fish

What to Do if You Do Become Ill with Norovirus

stomach flu norovirus

Norovirus "season" is between October and April, so make sure you wash your hands regularly and avoiding sharing dishes, utensils, hand towels or food containers with others.

Even with the best intentions, it's still possible to become ill with norovirus. If you do, be aware that antibiotics will not help (they're for killing bacteria, not viruses). What will help is:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Recommended fluids are water, oral rehydration fluids (ORF) or juice (sports drinks are NOT recommended, as they will not replace the nutrients and minerals lost during this illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)).

  • Gradually resuming eating. Once your nausea subsides, try to eat something bland, such as crackers, toast, bananas, rice or chicken (but stop and let your stomach settle if it makes you feel nauseas).

  • Getting lots of rest.

  • Avoiding certain foods, including dairy products, caffeine, and fatty or spicy foods, along with alcohol and nicotine. You should also avoid, or limit, medications such as ibuprofen (which may upset your stomach) and acetaminophen (which may cause liver toxicity if you take too much).

Recommended Reading

The Nine Grossest Things Other People Do That Can Make You Sick

The Rise of Contagious Disease & How to Minimize Your Risk of Contagious Disease Exposure


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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