Norovirus is a very contagious virus that leads to vomiting and diarrhea. Common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Symptoms develop 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus and will usually go away within 1 to 3 days.
The two most common settings for norovirus outbreaks are healthcare facilities and restaurants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 50% of all food-related illness outbreaks are caused by norovirus. Food workers infected with norovirus can spread the virus to customers through touching foods before serving. Exposure can also occur from food that was already contaminated at the source of production. The foods most commonly associated with norovirus are leafy greens, fresh fruits, and shellfish (such as shrimp).
The spread of norovirus is preventable
While there is currently no vaccine to protect against norovirus, there are ways you can prevent yourself and others from being exposed to the virus:
- Wash your hands well.
This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or doing any other activity that might expose you to fecal matter or vomit. Norovirus can be found in vomit or poop before symptoms arise, and for more than 2 weeks after a person stops feeling ill.
- Avoid touching your face.
Norovirus is primarily spread through the “fecal-oral route.” Unless you have thoroughly washed your hands, take extra steps to avoid touching your mouth or anything you plan on eating or drinking.
- If you are sick, do not prepare food or care for others.
Wait until at least 2 days after your symptoms stop.
- Handle food safely.
Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating or serving them. Cook shellfish well before eating. Noroviruses can survive in temperatures as high as 145°F.
- If someone vomits or has diarrhea, clean the infected surfaces well.
CDC recommends first putting on a pair of gloves, wiping the area with paper towels, and then disinfecting the area using a bleach-based cleaner. You can also make your own cleaner using ¾ cup of bleach and 1 gallon of water. Make sure to leave the bleach on the infected area for at least 5 minutes before cleaning with soap and water.
For a step-by-step guide, check out this CDC tutorial.
- Wash clothes and other materials that may be infected with vomit or diarrhea.
Make sure to wear gloves to prevent spreading the virus to yourself. Wash all soiled items with detergent and hot water, and machine dry on the hottest setting.
- If you are sick, stay home.
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of norovirus, especially vomiting or diarrhea, stay home from school, work, social events, and any other settings where you will be around other people. If you work in food, childcare, or healthcare settings, CDC recommends staying home for at least 2 days after symptoms stop.
What does SIPH do to prevent the spread of norovirus?
When norovirus cases are reported to our office, SIPH epidemiologists conduct confidential investigations. This includes calling the patient to better understand potential exposures and ensure that the individual is educated about the disease and how to prevent spreading it to others.
For Healthcare Providers Reporting a Case:
All confidential reports must include:
- Disease or condition reported
- Patient’s name, age, gender, address (including city and county), phone
- Physician’s name, address, phone
Communicable Disease Report Line: (208)-478-6303
24-hour Reporting: (800) 632-5927