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News Release

Media Contact: Tom Grant

Published on December 16, 2008

Get the Facts: Norovirus and Other Common Winter "Stomach Bugs”

Recently, cases of Norovirus, a winter “stomach bug,” have been reported in Montgomery County and surrounding areas. As the holidays approach and local residents gather with friends and family, experts from Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals provide tips on avoiding these stomach bugs and staying healthy during the holiday season.

What is norovirus and who can get it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noroviruses are actually a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis.  Recently, the term norovirus was approved as the official name for this group of viruses.  Like all viral infections, noroviruses are not affected by treatment with antibiotics.  Anyone can become infected with noroviruses.  Because there are many different strains, long-term immunity to all noroviruses is impossible.

What are the symptoms of illness caused by noroviruses?

Symptoms of noroviruses include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping.  Some people may also have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and general tiredness.  Noroviruses typically begin suddenly, make the person feel very sick and only last one or two days.

What are other names for noroviruses?

Illnesses caused by noroviruses are often referred to as stomach flu, food poisoning, caliciviruses, norwalk-like viruses, acute gastroenteritis, non-bacterial gastroenteritis and virus gastroenteritis.

Is Norovirus a serious illness?

Norovirus illnesses are not extremely serious illnesses.  However, people with norovirus may feel quite ill and may vomit often.  Most people with norovirus are better in one or two days and don’t experience long-term health effects from the illness.  In extreme cases, people with norovirus become dehydrated, which can require medical attention to help replenish fluids in the body.  Children, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system are at the greatest risk for severe dehydration from noroviruses.

Is any treatment available for norovirus?

At this time, there are no antiviral medications to treat noroviruses and there is no vaccine available to prevent this illness.

How does the norovirus pass from person to person?

Noroviruses pass from person to person by:

  • Eating foods or drinking liquids that are contaminated,
  • Touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated and then placing hands in the mouth,
  • Having direct contact with a person who is infected (caring for someone or sharing food with someone who is infected).

How quickly will norovirus symptoms appear and how long is norovirus contagious?

Symptoms of norovirus will generally appear in 24 to 48 hours after ingestion, but they can appear in as little as 12 hours.  A person who is infected with norovirus is contagious the moment that they begin to experience symptoms and for at least three days after recovery.  Some people could be contagious for up to two weeks after recovery.

How can I prevent contracting norovirus?

There are several important steps that can help prevent the spread of noroviruses.  According to the CDC, these include:

  • Frequent, good hand washing (warm water, scrub with soap for 25 seconds, etc.), particularly after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables and steam oysters before eating.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
  • Flush or discard any vomitus and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.

People who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food while they have symptoms and for three days after they recover from their illness.


For more information about Noroviruses, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.


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