Norovirus Infection (cont.)
In this Article
How long are people contagious?
People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. The virus may be shed (discharged from the body through vomit or stool) for 2 weeks or more after recovery, although it is unclear whether the virus shed during this time is infectious. Therefore, it is particularly important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness.
Who gets norovirus infection?
Anyone can become infected with noroviruses. There are many different strains of norovirus, which makes it difficult for a person's body to develop long-lasting immunity. Therefore, norovirus illness can recur throughout a person's lifetime. In addition, because of differences in genetic factors, some people are more likely to become infected with noroviruses and develop more severe illness than others.
Is there a treatment for norovirus infection?
There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection. And there is no drug to treat people who are infected with the virus. Antibiotic drugs will not help if you have norovirus infection. This is because they fight against bacteria not viruses.
Norovirus illness is usually brief in people who are otherwise healthy. But, the infection can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration (loss of too much water from the body). During norovirus infection, young children, the elderly, and people with other illnesses are most at risk for dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. A dehydrated child may also cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.
Dehydration can lead to other serious problems. And severe dehydration may require hospitalization for treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids. Thus it is important to prevent dehydration during norovirus illness. The best way to protect against dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids. The most helpful fluids for this purpose are oral rehydration fluids (ORF)*. Other drinks that do not contain caffeine or alcohol can also help with mild dehydration. However, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.
Severe dehydration can be serious. If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, contact your healthcare provider.
*Several products with ingredients similar to those in ORFs can be used to prevent or treat mild dehydration. These products -- called oral rehydration solutions -- are sold as pre-mixed fluids. Following is a list of some oral rehydration solutions commonly available in U.S. food and drug stores: Infalyte, Kao Lectrolyte, Naturalyte, Oralyte, and Pedialyte. If you are unsure about which product to use or how to use these pre-mixed fluids, contact your healthcare provider.