Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone. Norovirus outbreaks occur throughout the year; however, 80% of the outbreaks occur from November to April. Norovirus is often mistaken for food poisoning or called “stomach flu.” It is true that food poisoning can be caused by noroviruses, but other germs and chemicals can also cause food poisoning. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu, which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.

The most common symptoms of norovirus are diarrhea, throwing up, nausea and stomach pain. Other symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches. Those infected usually develop symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.

Norovirus illness can make you extremely ill, throwing up or having diarrhea many times a day, leading to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration are decrease in urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. Children who are dehydrated may cry with few tears or no tears, and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection. Be sure to use the following tips to prevent infection:

  • Practice proper hygiene: wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, and always before you eat, prepare or handle food.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, and cook seafood thoroughly.
  • When you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly. Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool (feces).

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