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Norovirus: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors And Preventive Measures

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

About Norovirus

The news of the Norovirus outbreak has been in circulation for some time now. The outbreak has been on the global scale mostly, but recently it has hit close to home with two confirmed cases of Norovirus infection in Kerala, as of January 24th reports. With so much attention given to this virus, it is important to understand what the virus is capable of doing in order to be able to fight it better.


Firstly, norovirus is not a new virus and it has been circulating among us for nearly half a century now. Secondly, the virus is held to be one of the causes of gastroenteritis or stomach flu. Thirdly, norovirus is capable of surviving in cold temperatures, so it is more common in cold countries and during the winter months. As per another report, it was found that the norovirus infection was more noticeable in high-income countries. In India, however, cases were reported in shared food environments, such as hostels and schools.

With cases gradually on the rise in India, let us explore a little more details about the norovirus infection so that we are able to tackle the infection as aware citizens.

Norovirus infection- mode of spread

In the opinion of experts, the infection has a high possibility of spreading in crowded and closed spaces where there is close contact with a person who is infected with the virus. Even after the infected person has left the spot, the virus continues to thrive on objects and surfaces for weeks and days. Some other causes of the norovirus are:

  • Consuming food that is contaminated
  • Drinking water that has been contaminated
  • Being in physical contact with a person infected with the virus
  • Touching your mouth with the hand once it has been in contact with contaminated objects or surfaces

Symptoms of Norovirus infection

The symptoms usually start suddenly and can include the following:

· Loose or watery diarrhoea

· Cramps or stomach pain

· Feeling unwell

· Muscle pain

· Low-grade fever

· Nausea

· Vomiting

You are likely to experience symptoms 12-48 hours post your exposure to the norovirus infection. In some cases, the infected person may appear asymptomatic (not showing any signs at all). However, they are still highly contagious and can spread the infection to others when in contact.

Complications

Norovirus infection can clear up in a few days and is not usually life-threatening. But in young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with a weak immune system, the effects of the infection can be severe and even pose a risk to someone’s life. Some warning indications are listed below:

· Listlessness

· Dry throat and mouth

· Decrease in the output of urine

· Dizziness

· Fatigue

Also Read: Trench Mouth: Causes, Symptoms, and Research-Based Treatment Options

Who is at risk of Norovirus

Knowing your risk factors can keep you protected from falling ill and suffering from uncomfortable symptoms.

  • Those who live in closed spaces such as hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Being in contact with a person infected with norovirus.
  • Staying/travelling in cruise ships, buses, resorts or other such destinations with people in close spaces.
  • Consuming food in a place where the food has been cooked or served by someone who has the infection.

Preventive measures to reduce the risk of Norovirus infection

There is no mystery about the fact that norovirus can cause a highly contagious infection. The only way to keep yourself safe is by practising safe hygiene habits:

  • Wash the fresh vegetables and fruits bought from the local market or supermarket.
  • Try to avoid having food in restaurants and cafes. There is a possibility that the food can be handled by someone who is infected.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and patiently for 20 seconds, at least with soap and water. This must be done every time you come home from outside, each time you are about to change your baby’s diaper and every time you are about to cook.
  • One must cook seafood very carefully.
  • Disinfect possible contaminated surfaces with the chlorine bleach solution for maximum protection.
  • You can also give yourself an extra dose of protection by getting yourself vaccinated later. Some of these vaccines are there in the preclinical stage pipeline and their availability in the market will help the government and health sectors in managing the spread immensely.

In order to prevent the virus from spreading if you have already been infected, here is what you should do:

  • Refrain from physically touching others or coming in close proximity. 
  • Spend sufficient time resting at home.
  • Continue to wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap.
  • Avoid travelling for 3 to 4 days after your symptoms cease to persist.
  • Dispose of vomit and stool very carefully by wearing gloves and disposable towels (if required). Place the soiled items in disposable bags and place them in the trash can.
  • Consult a doctor and follow the advised treatment plan.
  • Maintain good hydration and nutrition.

Conclusion

The article helps us to understand the various aspects of norovirus infection and we can gather that by following a few preventive steps, we can keep ourselves protected and stop the spread. If you develop symptoms of persistent diarrhoea, along with severe dehydration, you must contact your doctor right away, start your treatment and take adequate rest at home to maintain isolation for at least one week. Among other things, you can spread your knowledge about the virus amongst your loved ones and collectively stay vigilant.

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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