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What is norovirus?

The norovirus is a group of viruses known for causing gastroenteritis. They are also called “Norwalk-like viruses” or "small round structured viruses". Norovirus is sometimes referred to as “winter vomiting disease” because it is particularly common in the wintertime, although it can occur in any other season as well.

The infection with norovirus causes stomach problems, including nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea, and in some cases it can also cause fever, headache and fatigue. Symptoms can last from 12 to 60 hours but most people recover in two or three days.

Norovirus is very common and it affects a large number of people every year. It affects people of all ages equally, but it is perhaps more common in those who spend time in closed environment, such as schools, kindergartens, offices, hospitals and such. Norovirus can spread very easily from person to person and it can survive for extended periods in contaminated areas.

Recovering from norovirus unfortunately does not provide long-term immunity against this infection. However, it is not likely that a person will have norovirus infection twice in one season.

As for the treatment, it consists of bed rest, taking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and eating bland foods until the nausea and vomiting stop. Soup, rice, bread and crackers are particularly recommended. In case the vomiting is not very severe, a person infected with norovirus can take paracetamol or similar drugs to reduce the fever.

Prevention of norovirus

It is not always possible to prevent the norovirus infection but the chances of contracting it can be significantly reduced by practicing good personal and home hygiene.

The importance of washing hands frequently cannot be stressed enough. It should be done using hot or warm water and soap, preferably liquid, and drying the hands with disposable paper towels. Washing hands is particularly important after going to the bathroom and before handling foods or eating meals.

Towels and other personal items, like toothbrush or razor, should not be shared. Surfaces and objects that may have been contaminated with norovirus should be cleaned and disinfected. This particularly applies on doorknobs, telephones, remote control devices and such.

The toilet must be perfectly clean, especially if used by an infected person. Clothes, underwear, bed linen and covers that may have been contaminated must be washed separately on high temperature.

Raw fruit and vegetables must be washed and scrubbed before consumption, using running water and a brush.

Since oysters are known for carrying norovirus, they should only be purchased from trusted sources.

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