July 12, 2023

Interracial family vacation photo

Have summer plans? The last thing that you may want is for those plans to be ruined by norovirus—better known as a stomach bug or food poisoning. Although norovirus is often referred to as stomach flu, in fact, it has nothing to do with influenza (flu).

Norovirus is a common, contagious virus that causes acute gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines. With outbreaks reported not just in healthcare facilities, but also in restaurants, hotels, catered events, and childcare centers, catching norovirus can put a serious damper on summer fun. Norovirus is estimated to affect up to 21 million people in the US each year, and recent reports show that the number of cases has been rising, including 13 outbreaks reported on international cruise ships in the first half of 2023.

What You Can Do To Help Prevent Norovirus:

Know the symptoms. Anyone can be infected with norovirus, and symptoms often begin very suddenly. You can get sick with norovirus multiple times over the course of your lifetime. One of the best ways to be prepared is to know the signs and symptoms to look for when you or a loved one are feeling sick.  The most common symptoms of norovirus include stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms typically develop 12-48 hours after initial exposure, and most people recover within a few days. Fever is rare with norovirus. Other possible symptoms may include headaches and body aches, but like fever, these are far less common. Most norovirus cases are diagnosed by symptoms, but you can also get a diagnosis with a laboratory testing of a stool sample.

Learn how it spreads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a person who is sick with norovirus sheds billions of viral particles. However, if you come into contact with someone who has the disease, it only takes one virus particle for you to get sick. For this reason, if someone in your household gets sick with norovirus, it is likely to pass quickly to others.

In addition to person-to-person transmission, norovirus also spreads through contaminated food or drink as well as contaminated surfaces. This can happen when an infected person touches these items or if viral particles from vomit or stool land on them. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness.

Practice good hand hygiene. The best way to prevent norovirus is to wash your hands with soap and water, especially after using the restroom or changing diapers, before eating or handling food, and before taking medication. While alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also help protect against norovirus, they are less effective.

Handle food safely. Always wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before you eat them. Be sure to also cook seafood such as oysters and other shellfish prior to eating. Clean kitchen utensils and counters regularly.

Clean and disinfect surfaces. If you or a loved one does get sick, it is important to properly clean and disinfect contaminated areas as soon as possible. Wear rubber or disposable gloves if possible and use a bleach-based solution to kill germs. Wash soiled clothes or linens well with detergent and hot water.

What To Do If You Get Sick with Norovirus:

No one wants to get sick, but knowing what to do if you do get sick can help reduce recovery time. Norovirus can cause you to lose a lot of fluids due to diarrhea and vomiting. Be vigilant and stay hydrated by drinking clear or carbonated fluids to prevent dehydration and avoid serious related complications. If you or someone you care about is severely dehydrated, call a healthcare professional immediately.

Antibiotics should not be used to treat norovirus because antibiotics fight against bacteria, not viruses.

Learn more about norovirus at

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