Norovirus infection is a highly contagious viral infection that can be transmitted directly or indirectly and may lead to severe dehydration. This article explains this condition in detail.
Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus affecting the stomach and intestine. It can be transmitted directly or indirectly to people living in close areas like schools, hospitals, etc. It can also be a cause of food poisoning. The typical symptoms include vomiting associated with watery and non-bloody diarrhea. Its incubation period is 12 to 48 hours after the exposure and remains for a maximum of three days. An early exposure does not limit the recurrence, as there are many strains of this virus. It can prove to be fatal in children, the very elderly, and immunocompromised people.
The symptoms are usually visible within 12 to 48 hours post exposure to this virus. It can be from mild to moderate. The following are some of the commonly experienced symptoms by the patients:
3. Pain or cramps in the abdomen.
4. Fever which is mild.
7. Diarrhea or watery stools.
8. Generalized body pain.
The range of period for the symptoms to exist is between 24 to 72 hours. If you do not see any improvement beyond this period, consult your physician to know the exact cause. Blood in stools is another indication for emergency medical advice. Severe diarrhea can cause dehydration, which has to be considered a medical emergency and needs a medical opinion.
Following are the commonly observed signs and symptoms of dehydration:
Extremely dry throat and mouth.
The output of urine is decreased.
Infants not urinating for more than 6 to 8 hours. It can be checked by a not wet and clean diaper.
Decreased urination for about 12 hours in children.
Increased heart rate.
A child crying without tears is also an indication of dehydration.
The main cause of this infection is Norovirus which can be there in the contaminated food being consumed by you or can be transmitted via touching the infected person and then touching your nose or mouth with infected hands. These viruses pass through the stomach to the intestines. The virus grows and multiplies in the intestines. The body produces antibodies to fight against these viruses. These pathogens can survive in extreme heat and cold, and also, they can survive outside the body for many days.
The main route of transmission of these viruses is the fecal-oral route, but another route of transmission is also there, like via droplets of vomit.
When you visit your physician, you will be asked about your medical and dental history, followed by the signs and symptoms being faced by you. Sudden vomiting, cramps in the abdomen, and watery diarrhea can be seen, along with nausea.
Various examinations can be done like blood tests, stool tests within 48 to 72 hours after the initiation of symptoms.
Since it is a viral infection, there is no specific treatment for the disease, but supportive treatment can be done. The main goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration. Following steps can be followed to assist in giving symptomatic relief:
1. Take rest:
Take enough rest when infected. Do not strain your body.
2. Drink plenty of fluids:
Maintain hydration in the body. Oral rehydration solutions can be used to replace the lost electrolytes of all ages. They are more important in infants and children. Avoid taking sugar-containing drinks as they can lead to worsening diarrhea. Apart from these, avoid caffeine.
3. Continue a balanced diet:
Infants should be continued with breastfeeding or formula feeding even when dehydrated.
The following can be consumed by children and adults:
Crackers or bread.
Yogurt or curd.
Vegetables that are boiled or cooked.
Lean proteins, for example, chicken and fish.
When severely dehydrated, you may require hospitalization with IV fluids.
As we know that Norovirus is extremely contagious and persistent, and there is no vaccine available yet to prevent it, certain basic steps have to be taken to prevent getting this infection which is explained below:
1. Washing hands after using the toilet or changing the diaper of the baby, or when you take care of a sick person. Soap and running water should be used for at least 20 seconds to clean the hands. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used.
2. Wearing gloves, disposal of soiled materials and diapers in plastic bags is advisable when taking care of a sick person. A disinfectant or a chlorine bleach solution on contaminated surfaces should be used.
3. Wash all the vegetables, fruits before eating them or cutting them.
4. Avoid consuming foods and beverages prepared or consumed by a sick person.
5. Stay at home when you are sick. Cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing. Sanitize your hands and maintain distance from other non-infected people or crowded areas.
6. Do not consume raw food or undercooked food.
7. Do not travel when you are sick.
8. Do not use public swimming pools when you are suffering from diarrhea.
You have to remember the incubation period of the virus as you may feel good within a few days, but still, you might be capable of transmitting the infection to others. Hence, appropriate preventive measures should be taken. In case you notice any serious complications or severe diarrhea, consult your specialist or physician as soon as possible to prevent any further complications and improve the prognosis.
Norovirus is a very infectious disease and can spread easily if not taken appropriate measures on time. Also, early diagnosis and treatment are necessary. When you notice any symptoms or are suspicious, you should consult your physician immediately.
Online medical platforms have made this consultation process very easy. Hence, consult a specialist online to know more about this condition.
Last reviewed at:
26 Aug 2021 - 4 min read
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