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The CDC is reporting that more people are coming down with norovirus in recent months. Each year, the virus causes an estimated 19 to 21 million total illnesses throughout the United States. Norovirus also leads to about 500,000 emergency department visits and 900 deaths each year, mostly in older adults and very young children.
What is norovirus, what can you do to protect yourself and your family and how do you treat it if you do get sick? We’re here to answer those questions.
What is Norovirus?
Norovirus a common and very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. It typically spikes during the winter season with an uptake usually around February. While current data suggests that we are currently within the seasonal range, the CDC reports that this is an increase compared to past years. It also spreads rapidly where large groups of people gather, like in school classrooms, cruise ships, family gatherings, weddings, etc.
The gastrointestinal symptoms last for several days, and the virus does not necessarily come with a fever. At the time the symptoms are present, while short-lived, it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Norovirus is sometimes called the “stomach flu” or a “stomach bug,” but it’s not related to influenza, or what we call “the flu.”
The symptoms can come on quickly after being infected. Following exposure, you’ll usually develop symptoms 12 to 48 hours later. Most people get better within 1 to 3 days.
How Can I Protect Myself from Norovirus?
Because norovirus is highly transmissible, if one person in your family gets it, it tends to make its way around to everyone else, almost inevitably. The germs are shared not only through respiratory pathways, but environmental ones as well, such as touching objects that an infected person touched.
The best way to prevent transmission of this virus is to practice proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, after being out in public, before you prepare or eat food and when your hands are visibly dirty. Also, make sure you wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them and cook prepared foods well.
If you are around or taking care of family members who are sick, wiping down shared surfaces can also help reduce transmission of the virus in your home.
Hand sanitizer, which tends to be alcohol-based, can prevent illness from many viruses, but it may not work for norovirus. The best way to disinfect your hands is to wash them with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
How Do I Treat Norovirus?
If you do get sick, treating the symptoms and staying hydrated are key to recovery. Keep your fluids up with clear liquids. A little carbonation can help ease the stomach discomfort. Try taking sips of ginger ale as you can.
Why is Norovirus on the Rise?
It’s suspected that norovirus is on the rise for one of the same reasons that other common viruses are circulating more prevalently right now: Loosening of restrictions after the COVID-19 pandemic makes us more susceptible to picking up viruses after several years in seclusion.
It’s also thought that the norovirus uptick could be linked to raw oysters. The affected oysters were recalled, but it may still be driving cases.
Rising to the Challenge
At AdventHealth, we’re your partner in whole health and your trusted resource when you get sick. If you or your family are experiencing symptoms of a virus, reach out to your primary care provider today. We’ll help you feel like you again – in body, mind and spirit.