What Is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone can get infected with norovirus, but some individuals, such as young children, elderly individuals or immunocompromised people, may have more prolonged courses of illness. Norovirus infection is also a common cause of gastroenteritis.  

What Are the Symptoms of Norovirus? 

A person typically develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus, and norovirus infection symptoms last about 1 to 3 days. The most common symptoms of norovirus are:

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Stomach pain or cramps 

It’s less common but some people may also have fever, muscle aches, and loss of appetite and others may have no symptoms at all. 

How Is It Treated?  

There is no treatment for norovirus and most infections get better on their own. Children with norovirus infection with severe diarrhea and vomiting can get dehydrated and may require medical attention. If a child has norovirus illness, it’s important they drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration.  

How Does It Spread? 

Norovirus is very contagious and can spread easily. It’s typically transmitted from particles found in feces. You can get norovirus from having close contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food or water or by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth.   

Because norovirus is highly contagious, it can spread quickly in places where people are in close contact such as schools, daycare centers and cruise ships. 

How to Prevent Norovirus Infection

The best way to protect against spreading norovirus and to decrease risk of infection is:  

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. 
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. 
  • Cook seafood thoroughly.  
  • Stay home when you are sick. 

When Should You Contact a Doctor? 

In most cases, norovirus symptoms resolve in a few days. Call your doctor or seek medical attention if your child has:  

  • Signs of dehydration (such as dry mouth, decrease in urination or wet diapers, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, producing few or no tears when crying) 
  • Is not able to drink or keep down fluids 
  • Severe vomiting 
  • Bloody diarrhea  
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that does not resolve within a few days 
  • High fever