Klamath County Public Health-

Communicable Disease

Gastroenteritis (norovirus)

Norovirus is one of a family of viruses that causes stomach flu.  Noroviruses are members of the 'Norwalk-like' virus group which affect the stomach and the small and large intestines.  These become inflamed, causing what can be called gastroenteritis or stomach flu.  Norovirus is a non-bacterial gastroenteritis but because there are so many strains of this virus, it is unlikely that a person can develop a long-lasting immunity.  Diagnosis is made by detecting the presence of Norovirus in samples of stool, vomit or food.

Signs, symptoms and treatment
Norovirus infections usually occur suddenly with a person feeling very sick with nausea and vomiting and watery diarrhea and stomach cramps.  At times people may have a low grade fever as well as chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness.  Symptoms usually begin 24 and 48 hours after ingesting the virus and occasionally sooner.  During the acute phase people should try to avoid becoming dehydrated by drinking juice, water or an electrolyte replacement such as Gatorade or Pedialyte.  Rest, coupled with Tylenol or Ibuprofen as prescribed on the containers may be taken for aches and fever.  Currently there is no medication that works against Norovirus.  Most people get better within one or two days, however, if the illness persists, or becomes severe, they should seek medical help.  Recovery is usually complete with no long term health effects.

Complications
Although not a serious illness, during the acute stage of the infection, some people are unable to drink enough liquids to replace that lost through the vomiting and diarrhea, and therefore become dehydrated and require extra medical care.  This may especially be a problem for the elderly and the very young and people with a weakened immune system.

Spreading Norovirus
Norovirus is highly contagious and is found in the stool and vomit of infected people.  Outbreaks have occurred in day care centers, nursing homes and at summer camps, as well as on cruise ships and restaurants.  People become infected by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with Norovirus, or by touching contaminated surfaces.  Direct contact with an infected person, or sharing utensils and foods, can also result in transmission.  People infected with Norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after the recovery.  There is no evidence that people become carriers of the illness.

Prevention
People can decrease their chance of becoming infected by washing their hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after using the rest room, changing diapers, and before preparing food or eating.  Fruits and vegetables should be carefully washed before being eaten, and a bleach-based household cleaner used to clean contaminated surfaces.  Vomit and stool should be flushed in the toilet and the surrounding areas should be kept clean.  Hot water and soap can be used to wash clothing or linens.  It is important for people to practice good hand washing techniques and other hygienic practices after they have recovered from a Norovirus illness.

For more information on Gastroenteritis and Noroviruses , visit the CDC