East Central Health of Georgia

East Central Health District

Norovirus: Symptoms and Prevention

Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Anyone can get infected with norovirus and get sick. Norovirus can be found in your stool (feces) even before you start feeling sick.

The most common symptoms of norovirus—

  • diarrhea
  • throwing up
  • nausea
  • stomach pain

Other symptoms—

  • fever
  • headache
  • body aches

If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.

Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days, but can still be contagious for up to 3 days or longer.

You are most contagious

  • when you are sick with norovirus illness, and
  • during the first 3 days AFTER you recover from norovirus illness.

You can become infected with norovirus by

  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or
  • having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness).

Norovirus can spread quickly in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks happen from November to April in the United States.

In order to prevent the spread of this virus in your home (and at school), follow these basic prevention strategies:

  • Wash hands carefully with soap and water after using the toilet.
  • Wash hands before handling food or ice.
  • Wash hands before eating.
  • Refrain from food handling duties if currently ill and for 3 days after diarrhea and vomiting have stopped.
  • Discard foods that have been handled or prepared by someone who is or has recently had vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Promptly clean and disinfect any surfaces that become soiled with vomit or diarrhea. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Ill staff and children should remain at home until 24-72 hours after diarrhea and/or vomiting cease, or until stools are formed. Education on proper hand hygiene should be emphasized upon return to school.
  • School staff that handles food and have norovirus infection that have had diarrhea and/or vomiting should be excluded until 3 days after the last bout of vomiting and/or diarrhea and are having formed stools.

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