Norovirus is a family of highly contagious viruses that cause gastroenteritis in humans of all ages and some animals as well. It usually causes a mild infection whose symptoms last for a couple of days. Although having norovirus can be very unpleasant, it is usually not dangerous and most people make a full recovery within a couple of days.
The first case of norovirus was discovered in 1972 after an outbreak of intestinal flu at an elementary school in Norwalk, Ohio, hence the name 'Norovirus' or the 'Norwalk virus'. Since the initial appearance, researchers have found that there are a number of viruses that are closely related to the Norwalk virus. All these viruses cause intestinal flu and are collectively called noroviruses. It is the most common cause of nonbacterial intestinal flu.
When people are infected with norovirus they shed the virus in their feces and vomit which can infect people who ingest the contaminated fecal matter. Usually people get it by putting their hands in their mouths after touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus. One can also get it after swallowing particles that are dispersed in the air after an infected person has vomited. Another common way of catching the virus is by consuming food or drinks that are contaminated with the norovirus.
Since common disinfectants do not kill norovirus; it is easily spread from person-to-person as the virus can survive on contaminated surfaces for several days. You can get it by shaking hands with an infected person who didn't wash his/her hands after using the bathroom. Eating food prepared by someone who hasn't washed his or her hands properly after using the bathroom is more likely to infect you with norovirus. A person who was infected with norovirus can still excrete the genetic material of noroviruses for several days after recovery, implying that even if a person is no longer showing symptoms of gastroenteritis, he can still infect other people with norovirus.
Symptoms of norovirus usually appear one to two days after getting infected. An infected person can have a lot of abdominal pain, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Some people don't get any symptoms as they seem to be resistant to infection by the virus. The main risk from norovirus is of mild dehydration after frequent vomiting and diarrhea. The common symptoms are thirst, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, and dark urine.
Although norovirus poses a risk of dehydration, it isn’t life-threatening. Even the symptoms don't have long lasting effects on a person's health. Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days, though the phase can be very unpleasant.
Norovirus can be prevented easily by following simple instructions.
• Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparing food and after using toilet.
• Disinfect everything that could be contaminated with the virus including a surface, doorknobs, clothing and bedding.
• Use disinfectant with hot water to wash all the items that can be washed to kill the virus.
If you have contracted norovirus, avoid direct contact with other people and preparing food for others until at least 2 days after your symptoms have disappeared. You'll also need to drink more than your usual daily amount of water to replace the fluids lost as a result of vomiting and diarrhea. Drinking plenty of fluids is particularly important for young children and the elderly because they're more vulnerable to dehydration.
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