- Behavioral Health
- Co-occurring Disorders
- Community Services
- Harm Reduction
- Health Care
- Integrated Healthcare
- Medication Assisted Treatment
- Mental Health
- News & Information
- Primary Care
- Senior Health
- Smoking Cessation
- Substance Abuse
- Technology in Health Care
- Teen Health
- Treatment News
- Upcoming Events
- Veterans Health Care
- Women's Health
It’s Norovirus Season
Now that the holidays are just about over, we can talk about something that isn’t so joyous. Norovirus.
Norovirus is very contagious and you can catch it at any time of the year, although Winter is the time when most cases are reported. You may know it as the “stomach flu”, and it’s sometimes considered to be food poisoning. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, often to the extent that it causes you to become dehydrated. So while healthy individuals will suffer pain and inconvenience, it could be very serious for small children and older adults.
Prevention is the best cure, so you should take certain steps to minimize the chance that you will become infected with Norovirus. Handwashing is key, and you should know when and how to properly wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you use soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice), then rinse well and dry. You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to washing, but not as a substitute.
If you care for others who are sick, you need to keep surfaces clean and disinfected because they can easily become contaminated. You’ll also want to immediately wash clothes that you’ve worn in their presence. Make sure that you wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly. The virus can live through a quick steaming process, so don’t be fooled.
There is no specific medicine for Norovirus, according to the CDC, and antibiotics won’t help because it’s a virus. The most important thing you can do is re-hydrate yourself or the person you are caring for. Drink lots of fluids. Dehydration can be dangerous, especially in children and seniors, so you need to replenish what has been lost while the illness is present. Some guidelines to which fluids work best can be found on this CDC web page.
If dehydration is not remedied by drinking fluids, it may need to be treated in a hospital with IV fluids. It is critical that this is considered if the sick person is not able to keep fluids down.
Because Norovirus is highly contagious, the responsible individual will stay away from the children and elderly in their lives. And don’t prepare food for others if you are sick. Also, your co-workers will thank you for not sharing Norovirus with them.
Symptoms start to appear in a person anywhere from 12 to 48 hours after infection, and the illness lasts for 1 to 3 days. During the illness, you feel very ill with fever and body aches, and you make several trips to the bathroom daily. The catch is that you remain contagious for up to 5 days after symptoms go away. So you need to be careful not to pass the virus on after you are feeling better.
Although it’s most likely that you or a loved one will just feel very sick from Norovirus, please heed the words of the CDC in that, “Each year, it causes 19-21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths.” If you know what to do when you get sick with Norovirus, you won’t be one of the latter statistics.