Created on: December 27, 2012 Last Updated: December 28, 2012
You may have just had an enjoyable evening at a restaurant eating your favorite dish, but hours later you begin vomiting and having diarrhea. You may have terrible stomach and intestinal cramps. You are convinced you got a case of “food poisoning” from the restaurant. You probably contracted the norovirus from eating or drinking food or beverages that are contaminated by norovirus.
Norovirus, also known as the Norwalk Virus, is a virus, or a group of viruses, that are the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the stomach and the intestines. Norovirus illness is often referred to as the “stomach bug”, the “stomach flu” and “food poisoning”. According to the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) norovirus can be attributed to causing approximately 21 million illnesses, 70,000 hospitalizations, and 800 deaths each year in the United States. This means that 1 in every 15 Americans will become infected with norovirus every year. In addition, the body does not build up immunity to norovirus, so it is possible to be infected with norovirus multiple times. Most norovirus outbreaks occur from November to April in the United States.
Norovirus illness is not related to the flu, which is an abbreviation for influenza. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus. There is no vaccine or treatment for norovirus illness. Norovirus is difficult to eradicate because the virus can withstand hot and cold temperatures, and does not respond to most disinfectants.
Norovirus is found in feces and vomit. People become infected with Norovirus when they accidentally ingest infected feces or vomit. This happens by eating foods or drinking liquids that are infected with norovirus, or touching contaminated surfaces and objects and then putting fingers near or in the mouth. Norovirus can also be contracted by having contact with someone infected, especially if sharing eating utensils or cups. Norovirus is also spread if someone has contaminated stool or vomit on their hands, and then touches food or drink that is then consumed by someone else.
Norovirus is highly contagious and can spread quickly from person to person, especially in crowded, closed spaces such as schools, daycare centers, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, and on cruise ships. People infected with norovirus are contagious from the onset of feeling sick until several days to weeks after they recover from norovirus illness.
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