Norovirus Demystified: Food Poisoning Causes and Risk Factors

It has happened to most of us. You decide to eat out or enjoy a nice buffet and the next day you wake up staring into the toilet with indescribable pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Was it something you ate? What is causing the malaise? You may have come down with a norovirus infection. Norovirus is highly contagious and often difficult to contain. Click To Tweet.

What is Norovirus?

Originally called the Norwalk virus, norovirus is a group of viruses which first began in Norwalk, Ohio in 1972. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis (infection and inflammation in the stomach and intestines). 

Norovirus Causes

It can be spread through contaminated food or drinks, or directly through other people. The most common foods known to be norovirus carriers are:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Shellfish
  • Ready-to-eat meals (sandwiches, ice cream, salads, etc.) that have been handled by infected persons.

The norovirus is often found at buffets, restaurants, nursing homes, cruise ships, hospitals, child care centers, and other places with large numbers of people. Norovirus thrives in closed and crowded environments and spreads quickly.

Norovirus Misconceptions

It is thought that norovirus is merely food poisoning, but this isn’t entirely true. Food is not always involved in the transmission of norovirus, and it can be picked up through contact of an infected person. Sometimes, people confuse the stomach flu with norovirus, but they are two different viruses.

Symptoms of Norovirus

SIgns and symptoms of norovirus usually make an appearance between 12 and 24 hours after exposure and can last 1 to 3 days. Some common symptoms of norovirus are:

  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Low-grade fever
  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Malaise

Risk Factors for Norovirus

There are some risks associated with norovirus infection. If your symptoms and diarrhea are persistent, you need to seek medical assistance. Other risk factors include a weakened immune system and a higher likelihood that you will spread the virus to others. Health complications can lead to:

  • Decreased urine and dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Norovirus Treatments

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for norovirus and your recuperation length is directly related to your immune function. If you have been infected, it is imperative you stay well hydrated, avoid sugary drinks, eat a bland diet of crackers, soup or broth, banana, or yogurt. Again, if your symptoms persist, it is important to visit your doctor. Norovirus causes approximately 800 deaths per year (typically young children and the elderly).

Norovirus Prevention

While norovirus is highly contagious, it can be prevented. Here are some easy ways to help prevent norovirus outbreaks:

  • Water and food testing from a reputable microbial testing lab
  • Wash hand thoroughly before and after eating out
  • Wash vegetables and fruits well prior to consuming them
  • Dispose of items with fecal matter or vomit immediately (diapers, etc.)
  • If you are infected, take off work to halt the further spread

Staying Safe from Norovirus Infection

Norovirus accounts for 50% of the food-related illnesses in the United States. By educating yourself and practicing safe preventative measures, you can help your family and yourself safe from norovirus infection.

To learn more about how you can stay safe and prevent norovirus, Contact Us.

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