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Norovirus - commonly referred to as the winter vomiting bug - is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis, affecting people of all ages. Additionally, norovirus is typically the causative agent of sickness on cruise ships. Norovirus is notorious for its highly contagious nature, and it can spread in many different ways. Once infection occurs, symptoms show up relatively fast, but they only last for a few days. If symptoms don't disappear within three days, you should contact your doctor.

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Contact with an Infected Person

One of the most common sources of infection is contact with infected patients, as norovirus is easily transmitted to individuals around them. That's why if you become infected, you should abstain from cooking or taking care of other people for at least two to three days or until symptoms improve. Moreover, you should actively wash your hands, and avoid contact with others. Laundry should also be washed thoroughly to prevent the spread of this virus. Look out for any symptoms that may indicate infection, including an upset stomach as well as a low-grade fever.

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Shellfish

When it comes to norovirus risk, there is a broad range of foods that you should be aware of. However, shellfish are amongst the riskiest foods to consume, because it is nearly impossible to distinguish a contaminated food item from a safe one. All types of shellfish, including oysters, clams, and mussels, pose a health risk to consumers. To make matters worse, if you become infected, you are likely to spread the virus to people around you. After coming in contact with contaminated shellfish, you will usually develop watery diarrhea combined with vomiting, two hallmark signs of norovirus infection.

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Fast Food

Fast food combines all the elements that make for easy transmission of norovirus. That said, most fast food restaurants adhere to high hygienic standards, significantly reducing the likelihood of infection. In some cases, however, it can be easy for surfaces to become cross-contaminated due to the way that food is treated and processed at fast food restaurants. Norovirus particles can stay on surfaces for extended periods of time, so it can be difficult to kill remaining viral particles. If you eat at a fast food restaurant and experience stomach cramps, you may potentially have norovirus or perhaps a bacterial infection from contaminated foods. Continue to monitor symptoms and contact your doctor if they worsen.

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Infected Feces

When a person becomes infected with norovirus, it becomes increasingly easier to infect others around you. One of the factors that make norovirus so difficult to treat is its resistance to the elements; in fact, norovirus particles can survive for weeks in human feces, increasing the likelihood of more infections. To minimize your risk of becoming infected, make sure to wash your hands regularly, and always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If you become infected, you'll notice symptoms first appear in the digestive tract, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can last for a few days, but they usually go away on their own.

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Vomit

Vomiting is one of the most common symptoms of norovirus, and it can range from moderate to intense. Norovirus particles are contained within the vomit of an infected person, thus leading to enhanced transmission. In most cases, vomiting will subside in a few days. Be sure to contact your doctor if you experience vomiting for more than three days, and drink plenty of water to ensure hydration. If someone comes in contact with a surface that has been contaminated by norovirus particles, he or she may become infected. Norovirus is known for its rapid ability to spread from one person to another, so it is vital to keep surfaces clean and free of this virus.

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Contaminated Food

The easiest way to become infected by norovirus is to consume food that has been contaminated by norovirus particles. It takes a mere 100 norovirus particles to make you sick, making this one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis. If you have recently consumed food and start feeling sick, you should carefully monitor symptoms. Or if you notice fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, contact your doctor for further evaluation. If you only have diarrhea, you should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and contact your doctor if it lasts for more than a few days.

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Contaminated Surfaces

As mentioned previously, there are a variety of sources that can harbor norovirus particles, including surfaces that have become contaminated. Norovirus is characterized by its short incubation period, ranging from 12 to 48 hours. If someone around you has become infected, you should take extra precautions to reduce your risk of infection. Surfaces around the house should be disinfected daily, and infected people should avoid occupying areas that are frequently used by others. If a child becomes infected, the most commonly observed symptoms are vomiting, whereas adults are more likely to experience diarrhea.

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Breathing Infected Droplets

People who work in places with a high concentration of human activity, such as public schools, offices, cruise ships, and hospitals, are at an increased risk of contracting norovirus. This is due to that fact that norovirus can quickly spread through the air, infecting people that happen to breathe infected droplets. That's why norovirus can quickly spread to hundreds of people in a matter of hours or days. Taking necessary precautions in such areas is important. Frequent washing of hands, as well as regular disinfection of surfaces, should be made a priority. If you suspect an infection, you may experience mild stomach cramps, followed by more severe symptoms.

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Drinking Contaminated Water

Another possible cause of norovirus is water that has become contaminated with norovirus particles. Luckily, most water is now effectively treated with an array of procedures, some that involve chemicals, such as chlorine in swimming pools. In most cases this is sufficient to kill any lingering virus; however, in other cases, viral particles can find their way into your drinking cup. This is much more likely if you live in a developing country that doesn't have access to clean drinking water. If you visit such an area, carry portable water cleaning tablets. If you drink contaminated water, you may notice acute diarrhea soon after, as well as vomiting.

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Infected Clothing

Last but not least, you are at risk of becoming infected with norovirus if you come into contact with clothing that has been exposed to norovirus particles. If someone in your household has become infected, make sure to wash your clothes with a strong detergent to kill any virus. Note that not all particles can be easily killed with regular soap; bleaching may be necessary. While there is no treatment for norovirus, it may help to consume plenty of water and electrolytes. Moreover, getting plenty of rest is important to treat symptoms of the digestive system.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.