Norovirus

deaths and hospitalizations/ additional information


Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Each year, it causes 19-21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths. Norovirus is also the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States. Norovirus infection occurs most frequently in closed and crowded environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.

Symptoms

  • diarrhea
  • throwing up
  • nausea
  • stomach pain

Other symptoms—

  • fever
  • headache
  • body aches

Treatments

There is no specific medicine to treat people with norovirus illness. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is a viral (not a bacterial) infection.

If you have norovirus illness, you should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from throwing up and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration.

Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. But, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals. Oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter are most helpful for mild dehydration.

Dehydration can lead to serious problems. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization for treatment with fluids given through your vein (intravenous or IV fluids). If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, call the doctor.

Causes

People become infected with noroviruses when they eat food or drink liquids that have been contaminated; raw or undercooked oysters and raw fruits and vegetables have been implicated in some outbreaks. You can also get infected if you touch an object or surface that has been infected with the virus and then touch your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Noroviruses thrive on cruise ships (as well as in daycare centers, restaurants, nursing homes, and other close quarters), because they are very hardy and highly contagious. They can survive temperature extremes in water and on surfaces.

Once someone is infected from contaminated food, the virus can quickly pass from person to person through shared food or utensils, by shaking hands or through other close contact. People who have a weakened immune system are particularly susceptible to catching noroviruses.