Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness. It is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Anyone that comes in contact with the virus may possibly become ill. Formerly known as “Norwalk virus,”norovirus was first discovered in Norwalk, Ohio in 1972. The initial outbreak was at a local school in 1968. Particles of the virus were found in the feces of one of the infected persons, which were only visible under electron microscopy. Those infected with norovirus were categorized with experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea for 12-24 hours. Norovirus can cause inflammation of the stomach as well as the intestines.
The incubation period for norovirus, on average, is 12-48 hours. Generally, symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pains. Additional symptoms of the virus are fever, headache and muscle aches. Because norovirus causes patients to feel extremely ill due to constant vomiting and diarrhea, the risk for dehydration increases. Symptoms of dehydration in patients with norovirus may include decrease in urination, dry mouth and throat as well as feeling dizzy after standing up. Children that experience dehydration may experience crying with few tears or display extreme fatigue.
Because norovirus is extremely contagious, a person can become infected by being in contact with an infected person, contaminated food, water or other surfaces. It is possible for someone to be infected by norovirus multiple times due to the many different strands of the virus. There are certain places were norovirus can spread more quickly. Some of those places include daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, cruises or other areas where large groups of people are contained together.
Currently, there are no specific treatments or vaccines to cure norovirus. It is recommend for those that become ill to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. The most dangerous affect of norovirus is dehydration. Severe dehydration during illness may require patients to be hospitalized in order to receive fluids intravenously. Most people that become ill with norovirus recover between 1-3 days.