Norovirus (vomiting and diarrhoea bugs)

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause stomach or intestinal infection, leading to vomiting and diarrhoea.

Summary

Norovirus is highly infectious and spreads easily from person to person. Both faeces (‘poos’) and vomit are infectious, and the virus can survive on contaminated surfaces even after cleaning with some disinfectants.

People with norovirus are infectious for at least 3 days after the symptoms stop and on some occasions for up to 2 weeks.

How is it spread?

Norovirus can be spread in many ways:

  • consuming contaminated food or drinks
  • touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then putting your fingers in your mouth
  • having direct contact with an infected person (eg, by sharing food or eating from the same plate or cutlery)
  • through the air (when vomiting sends tiny particles into the air).

This topic sheet was provided by Healthline.

Symptoms

If you or a family member has been exposed to norovirus, you will most likely get sick within 1–2 days. The symptoms usually last for 2 days.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches

When to see your doctor

See your doctor if you or a family member:

  • has blood in their vomit
  • gets any new or worse symptoms
  • has vomiting or diarrhoea for longer than 3 days.

You should also see your doctor if you or a family member has become badly dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include:

  • little or no urine passed in the last 8 hours and the urine is dark and smelly
  • reduced saliva in their mouth, no tears, sunken eyes, sunken fontanelle in infants
  • dizziness, lethargy (no energy), floppiness, a rapid heart rate and breathing, cool hands and feet or grey cold skin
  • their skin doesn’t relax after being pinched.

Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment or vaccination for norovirus. Dehydration is the main cause of serious illness.

  • Drink plenty of fluids such as plain water and oral rehydration drinks.
  • Don’t take medicine to stop vomiting or diarrhoea (unless your doctor tells you to) as these will stop your body getting rid of the virus.

For more information on treating dehydration, go to Vomiting.

Prevention

These steps can help stop the virus spreading.

  • Don’t go to school, early childhood centre or work until well and for 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.

  • Don’t prepare or handle food for at least 48 hours after the symptoms stop.
  • Immediately remove and wash any contaminated clothes and bedding using detergent and hot water.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based disinfectant.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based gel.
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