Norwalk virus is one of several viruses responsible for gastroenteritis, a common food-borne illness. The infection caused by Norwalk virus frequently occurs, but with proper hygiene measures it can be successfully prevented. Even if the infection develops, its complications can be prevented with proper hydration.
Infection caused by Norwalk virus is frequent among people in Japan where the infective agents contaminate shellfish. Contamination of this food (which is normally consumed raw, therefore the virus cannot be destroyed) occurs due to water contamination by waste eliminated by the sewage system. The infection is also found around the world where it affects travelers on cruise ships, children in schools and day cares, people who often visit restaurants as well as individuals who spend their holiday in summer camps.
The virus is spread via the fecal-oral route, from person-to-person or by animals and can be found in shellfish harvested from contaminated water or ice or water contaminated with sewage. Furthermore, contact with objects and surfaces contaminated with the virus and further manipulation with hand around the mouth may cause infection. Food can be contaminated if an individual suffering from Norwalk infection manipulates with food and has not washed his/her hands prior food preparation.
Clinical Characteristics of Norwalk Virus Infection
People who develop infection complain about stomach cramping, nausea, profuse and nonbloody vomiting, watery diarrhea and low-grade fever. Headache and muscle ache may occur as well. The previously mentioned symptoms occur 1 to 3 days after exposure to the virus and the entire length of infection never exceeds several weeks.
Prevention of Norwalk Virus Infection
Definitely, the most successful means of prevention is thorough handwashing after each and every visit to a toilet and before food manipulation and preparation. People who have developed symptoms of the infection must pay even more attention to their hand hygiene and are supposed to abstain from cooking and any kind of food manipulation.
Infected individuals who work in daycare centers and health care facilities must stay at home until they completely overcome the infection.
It is recommended to dispose, clean or disinfect infected objects, materials and contaminated surfaces right after the onset of the infection.
Shellfish lovers are advised to consume only cooked meals containing shellfish.
Treatment for Norwalk Virus Infection
There is no effective medication against Norwalk virus. Still, people who develop infection apply protective measures in order to prevent dehydration, a common complication of the infection. By getting plenty of rest and drinking sufficient amounts of water and other fluids one can accelerate the elimination of the virus from the body and soon recover completely.