What is the Norovirus?
Norovirus, often referred to as the ‘winter vomiting bug’, is a highly contagious stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
How can you catch it?
Norovirus is spread through contamination of surfaces and food and drink. If you share food and drink with an infected person then this allows the virus to spread to you and you will become unwell.
Poor Hand hygiene can also be a cause of spread, after vomiting or an episode of diarrhoea you must wash your hands thoroughly as if this is not done them any surfaces that you touch become contaminated and the next person may touch these surfaces and them touch their mouth and become unwell.
Although mainly spread through contact transmission, Norovirus can be spread through airborne transmission of viral particles when the infected individual is vomiting.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms normally start within 24-48 hours after being infected.
The main symptoms of Norovirus are those of any sickness bug:
- Nausea (Feeling sick)
- Vomiting (more common in adults)
- Diarrhoea (more common in children)
Alongside these symptoms, the infected person may also suffer with:
- High Temperature
- Aching arms and legs.
Due to the diarrhoea and vomiting, sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replace what they are losing through the vomiting and diarrhoea, therefore can suffer from dehydration.
How is it diagnosed?
Norovirus is normally diagnosed with your presenting symptoms, if you are an individual with a weakened immune system or have other medical conditions then the healthcare professional may request for a stool sample to send off to a lab for testing to confirm diagnosis however, this is not normally needed for Norovirus to be diagnosed.
Who is at risk?
Although Norovirus is usually a brief illness in most people, there are individuals who are more at risk of severe symptoms and a prolonged illness with Norovirus:
- The Elderly
- Young children
- People with weakened immune systems.
- People with multiple medical illnesses
As stated above, Norovirus infections spread very rapidly therefore places like nurseys, schools, healthcare facilities and other institutional settings are at risk for outbreaks due to an increase in person-to-person contact.
How can it be treated?
Norovirus can usually be treated by yourself or your child at home.
There is no medical treatment for Norovirus and therefore you have to let it run its course. The most important actions to take is to make sure the person suffering with Norovirus has plenty of rest and fluids to prevent dehydration.
You would only need medical attention if you are within the at-risk categories or if you are suffering from severe dehydration.
What can be done to prevent spread?
Like most viruses, a lot can be done to prevent the spread.
- Use of proper hand hygiene is the best way to prevent spread. Washing your hand regularly if you are suffering from Norovirus or are in close contact with someone who is.
- Do not prepare food for others if you are suffering from Norovirus
- Wash all laundry thoroughly that is worn by the infected person
- Disinfect all surfaces that are potentially contaminated
- After every episode of vomiting and diarrhoea, thoroughly clean and disinfect the toilet and bathroom.
- Sleep in a separate room if possible if your partner is suffering from Norovirus.
- Isolate yourself from your family if possible until at least 48 hours after your last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea.