Norovirus: Symptoms and Treatment
What Causes Infection With Noroviruses? continued...
“You don’t need that much exposure to get sick,” says Gaydos.
Noroviruses thrive in close quarters, such as restaurants, day-care centers, and nursing homes, because they are hardy and highly contagious. They can survive temperature extremes in water and on surfaces.
Once someone is infected from contaminated food, the virus can quickly pass from person to person through shared food or utensils, by shaking hands, or through other close contact.
When someone with the virus vomits, the virus can spread through the air and contaminate surfaces. The virus also spreads through feces, meaning that someone who doesn’t thoroughly wash his hands after using the bathroom can pass it along. Dirty diapers can also harbor norovirus.
Young children, the elderly, and people who have a weakened immune system are particularly susceptible to catching noroviruses. The spread of the virus can be hard to control because it's contagious before symptoms appear. In other words, you can spread the infection before you know you’re sick.
“If you get one or two kids in the classroom with it, then it can wipe out the whole class and other classrooms,” says Gaydos. “It’s just like at home where if one person gets it, the whole family gets it.”
What Are the Symptoms of a Norovirus Infection?
If you come down with a norovirus infection, you'll probably go from feeling completely healthy to absolutely miserable within a day or two after being exposed. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting (more often in children), watery diarrhea (more often in adults), and stomach cramps.
Other norovirus symptoms include:
Most of these symptoms aren't serious, but diarrhea and vomiting can deplete your body of the fluid it needs, and you can become dehydrated. Children and the elderly are most susceptible to dehydration, as well as malnutrition from not getting enough nutrients.
If you have norovirus symptoms, your doctor can give you a stool test to confirm that you have the illness. However, norovirus diagnosis is usually made based only on symptoms.