Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause stomach or gut infection leading to vomiting and diarrhoea (runny poos). You can get the virus easily by coming into contact with an infected person or eating food or drinks contaminated with the virus.
- Norovirus is very infectious and is spread by contact with someone who has the virus. It is very common in daycare centres, rest homes and cruise ships.
- Symptoms usually begin with sudden nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea (runny poos) or tummy pain. The illness lasts for a few days.
- There is no specific treatment or vaccination for norovirus. The best treatment is to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Older adults and children are most at risk of dehydration.
- Careful handwashing is the most important way to stop the spread of norovirus.
- If you have diarrhoea or vomiting, don't go to school, daycare or work until 48 hours after the diarrhoea and vomiting has stopped.
What are the symptoms of norovirus?
Both adults and children can be infected with norovirus. Common symptoms of norovirus are:
- vomiting, often projectile (when vomit forcefully flies out of the mouth)
- tummy pain
- nausea (sickness in your stomach and an urge to vomit)
- runny poos.
The symptoms often begin suddenly, within 10 to 50 hours of coming into contact with the virus. They usually last 1 to 3 days. You may also have fever, headaches, chills and muscle aches. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms. It's possible to be infected with norovirus more than once.
|See your doctor immediately if:|
Who is most at risk of norovirus infection?
Norovirus affects people of all ages. You are more likely to get norovirus if you:
- have contact with infected people
- do not wash your hands properly
- are not careful with cleanliness when preparing food
- attend daycare or school or live in a dormitory, hostel or rest home
- have a weak immune system, such as young children, older adults and people with severe medical conditions.
Children who are 5 years old and younger, adults over 65 years old and people with weak immune systems are more likely to have severe symptoms.
How is norovirus spread?
Norovirus is spread from someone who has the virus, as their poo and vomit are infectious. Also, norovirus can survive on surfaces and objects for a long time.
This means you can catch norovirus by:
- not washing your hands after changing the nappies of an infected child
- having contact with an infected person such as caring for them or eating from the same plate or cutlery as them
- touching surfaces, such as doors and handles, that have the virus on them
- consuming contaminated foods or drinks
- breathing in some of the virus in the air when someone vomits.
Note: If you have norovirus, you can pass it on to other people while the virus is still in your body and poo. This can be up to 4 weeks after your symptoms start.
How is norovirus treated?
There is no specific treatment or vaccination for norovirus. Norovirus is not treated with antibiotics because it is caused by a virus, not a bacteria.
Most people with norovirus can be looked after at home and do not need to see a doctor. Rest and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Do not take medicine to stop vomiting or diarrhoea as this will stop your body getting rid of the virus. However, if you see a doctor they may give you medicine to stop vomiting or diarrhoea if they are worried you are getting dehydrated.
Take time off work, school or preschool
Anyone with diarrhoea or vomiting should not go to work, school or daycare until they have had no symptoms for 2 days. This is especially important for food handlers, healthcare workers, childcare workers and children at school or daycare.
How can I avoid getting norovirus?
Careful handwashing is key to preventing the spread of norovirus. Wash your hands with soap thoroughly:
- after changing nappies
- after going to the toilet
- after caring for someone infected with the virus
- before handling or eating food.
It is also important to:
- cook all food thoroughly to kill any viruses
- only drink water that is treated and known to be safe
- if you are not sure if the water is safe boil it first
- if you have your own water supply, protect it from animal and bird poo and treat the water
- get your shellfish from a safe, reputable supplier
- use household chlorine bleach mixed with water to disinfect surfaces and items that have touched poo or vomit
- avoid visiting any place that has a norovirus outbreak.
How can I avoid spreading norovirus?
If you are infected with norovirus, you can avoid spreading it to others by:
- regularly washing and drying your hands thoroughly
- opening doors and windows to let fresh air into the room after vomiting
- use household chlorine bleach mixed with water to disinfect areas where vomit and poo have spilled and clean surfaces and items you use often
- if you need to visit your doctor tell the receptionist or nurse about your symptoms before you go so that the practice can decide if infection control measures need to be put in place
- avoid contact with children, adults over 65 years old and people with weak immune systems until you have had no symptoms for 48 hours (2 days)
- do not prepare food for others until you have had no symptoms for 2 days
- do not go swimming in pools until you have had no symptoms for 2 weeks.
- Norovirus information sheet Hawkes Bay Public Health Unit