Norovirus infection, previously known as the Norwalk virus, is a prevalent cause of outbreaks related to foodborne diseases and acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis across the globe. This infection arises from consuming food or beverages tainted with the virus or through contact with contaminated objects like cutlery and surfaces.

Symptoms of Norovirus Infection

Typical signs of this infection, such as vomiting, stomach discomfort, and diarrhea, emerge within 12 to 48 hours after exposure. Infection can also occur through exposure to infected individuals' bodily fluids. The symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, stomach ache, headaches, fever, and muscle aches, typically persist for 1 to 3 days. Unlike other gastrointestinal conditions, norovirus does not cause localized pain or specific abdominal cramps, making diagnosis challenging. Continuous vomiting or diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration, characterized by fever, profound weakness, a rapid yet weak pulse, and reduced blood pressure.

Diagnosing Norovirus

Diagnosing norovirus involves analyzing a stool sample in a laboratory.

Treating Norovirus Infection

No specific medication exists to cure norovirus. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, which generally improve within 3 to 4 days. For mild symptoms, oral rehydration solutions are recommended. Those with more severe symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, should consume soft foods and can take medication for nausea and abdominal pain as needed. Severe cases involving stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea might lead to life-threatening dehydration, necessitating hospitalization for intravenous fluids and close monitoring.

High-Risk Groups in Notovirus Infection

Particular attention should be given to high-risk groups such as young children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, as they are more susceptible to severe dehydration.

Prevention for Notovirus Infection

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent norovirus infection.

Practising good healthcare habits, such as eating fresh food, using a serving spoon when sharing meals, and frequently washing hands, can help reduce the spread of infection.

Due to the high contagiousness of this disease, here are some steps to help prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 15 seconds after using the restroom or changing a baby's diaper and before preparing or eating food. While alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used, washing hands with soap is the better option.
  • Avoid consuming food and drinks that may not be clean, as the virus can remain in the environment, especially in water, for long periods of time.
  • Thoroughly wash fresh fruits and vegetables. Ensure oysters or other shellfish are well-cooked before consumption.
  • Properly dispose of any contaminated waste items, vomit, or faecal matter by using a damp cloth to clean up and securing the waste in a plastic bag.
  • Immediately separate and wash diapers or clothing contaminated with faecal matter, or dispose of them appropriately.
  • Clean contaminated areas with a chlorine-based disinfectant.
  • Refrain from cooking or preparing food if you have been infected, as the virus can still be spread to others for up to 3 days after symptoms have subsided.
  • Infected children should not attend school or daycare to prevent the further spread of the virus.
  • Avoid travelling until you have fully recovered.