What is Norovirus?
The Norovirus is also commonly referred to as the stomach flu. The infection is commonly associated with acute vomiting, intestinal pain and diarrhea. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Norovirus is responsible for a majority of intestinal infections in adults. The virus is quite prevalent in closed as well as jam-packed areas, for example, cruise ships, hospitals and nursing homes.
Normally, people who have contracted the virus tend to develop fever, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and intestinal pain 1 to 2 days after exposure. Unlike other types of viruses, patients who suffer from Norovirs are not contagious during the incubation period. However, they can still spread the virus 2-3 weeks after treatment.
Whereas the symptoms of Norovirus can clear on their own after 3-4 days without treatment, there are cases where treatment is necessary. For example, when an adult or child suffers from a severe case of vomiting or diarrhea, they may need to see a doctor in order to avoid dehydration.
As is the case with any other form of virus, Norovirus is quite contagious. It can be spread through sharing of utensils, contact with infected clothes and surfaces and eating contaminated food. It is for this reason that you need to observe hygiene in order to curb the spread of the virus.
What Causes Norovirus?
The stomach flu comes into contact with human beings when their foods and drinks are contaminated. Contamination usually occurs when an infected person comes into contact with food, drinks and utensils.
Signs and Symptoms of Norovirus
Vomiting and diarrhea are the common symptoms displayed by people suffering from Norovirus. Then again, the symptoms may differ from one person to the other. Besides vomiting and diarrhea, other symptoms you may experience include malaise, intestinal pain, low-grade fever, abdominal cramps and weight loss.
The symptoms listed above tend to manifest 1-2 days after being exposed to the virus and can last for up to 3 days. During the recovery period, patients tend to discard the virus from their bodies through feces. It is for this reason that infected person should remain in quarantine and observe high levels of hygiene for at least 3 weeks after initial treatment.
Still, not everyone who suffers from Norovirus displays the symptoms mentioned herein. There are people who hardly show any kind of symptom. But this does not mean that they are not contagious. In fact, people who display no symptom are the ones who spread the disease at an alarming rate.
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
There is no treatment for Norovirus and the symptoms can clear on their own after 3-4 days. But, you need to seek instant medical attention the moment you start suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. If left untreated, diarrhea and vomiting can cause severe dehydration. You also need to seek medical assistance the moment you notice blood in your stool.
For a majority of people, the infection clears on its own after 3-4 days without any kind of treatment. However, acute dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea can cause malnutrition or even death. Several studies have shown that the virus is more dangerous in children and older generation because their immune systems are weak.
How to Prepare for an Appointment
A majority of people usually don’t see a doctor since the infection clears without treatment after 3-4 days. Nevertheless, if you have an infant, toddler or teenager suffering from the disease, you need to take them to a doctor. Typically, you should consult a doctor if the signs and symptoms persist for more than 2 days or the vomiting and diarrhea seem to be getting worse.
Signs of looming dehydration include dry mouth, diminished urine intake, sunken eyes and decreased tear production. Therefore, when preparing for a doctor’s appointment, you need to have certain information at your fingertips. These include:
– Has your child been experiencing fevers?
– When did you notice the signs and symptoms?
– What is the frequency of diarrhea and vomiting?
– Is your child experiencing only vomiting or diarrhea or both?
– Have you noticed blood in your child’s fecal matter, mucus or vomit?
How to Test for Norovirus
Whereas diagnosis usually entails analyzing the signs and symptoms, your doctor may also test your stool in order to confirm the diagnosis.
To date, there is no treatment for Norovirus. Normally, recovery hinges on the wellbeing of your immune system. While the infection may clear without any kind of treatment, your doctor may prescribe a couple of medications to manage the symptoms, especially if you have an acute case of vomiting and diarrhea.
Prevention is the best cure for Norovirus. Listed below, are some of the preventive measures that you can take in order to prevent the disease:
Hygiene: Proper hygiene is the secret to preventing the infection from occurring in the first place. In addition to washing your hands after visiting the toilet and changing your baby’s diapers, you need to make a habit of washing fruits and vegetable using running water before preparation and eating. The same should apply when getting ready to prepare meals for the family.
Since it might be difficult for some people to leave their babies unattended, especially after changing diapers it is important that you keep a hand sanitizer close to your bed or chair.
Food Preparation: In a report published by the CDC, it was observed that most of the contamination usually occurs when handling and preparing food. Therefore, it is essential that you not only wash your hands, but thoroughly wash foods with running water prior to preparation.
Disinfect Contaminated Areas: If a child happens to vomit or diarrhea in an area, it is important that the place be disinfected. By doing so, you will be preventing spread of the infection through contact.
Since infection tends to occur in crowded places like hospitals, nursing homes as well as cruise ships, it is important to wash your hands after exchanging pleasantries with people and avoid touching your mouth or nose after greeting people.