Norovirus: What is it, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
Norovirus infection; It is an infectious disease that begins suddenly and is characterized by vomiting and diarrhea. Generally; It spreads in crowded environments such as schools, hospitals and hotels. Norovirus is transmitted from person to person through close contact or contaminated food. The most common symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain and watery diarrhea. Symptoms due to norovirus can usually resolve on their own within a few days. However, in cases where the body loses excessive water, which can be seen in some people, some medical treatments may be required.
What is Norovirus?
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that affects the stomach and intestines, belonging to the caliciviridae family. Norovirus is thought to be the most common virus affecting the gastrointestinal tract worldwide. Norovirus infection, which negatively affects human health, spreads mostly through food and beverages and is the cause of more than half of food-borne epidemics. Because norovirus is often spread through contaminated food, it is sometimes referred to as food poisoning.
There are different types of norovirus, and therefore, being previously infected with this virus does not provide any immunity to the virus in people. Although norovirus is most common in the winter months, it can occur at any time of the year and usually affects young children and older people.
What are the symptoms of norovirus?
Norovirus symptoms appear approximately 12-48 hours after infection with the virus and often last for 1-3 days. While the symptoms may be mild in some people, they may be severe in others. Even if symptoms improve, the virus can spread through feces and vomiting without nausea may continue for 2 weeks. Some of the general symptoms of norovirus are as follows:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach and abdominal cramps
- watery diarrhea
- low grade fever
- body aches
- General disease state
How Is Norovirus Transmitted?
Because norovirus is an infectious disease, it is easy to spread to other people. Contagiousness in an infected person can continue for up to 8 weeks, even if symptoms are not observed. Some of the ways norovirus is transmitted are as follows:
- Consuming poorly cleaned fruits and vegetables
- Eating food that has not been prepared under sterile conditions
- Drinking unclean water
- Having close contact with an infected person
- Using shared items with an infected person
- Bringing hands to mouth after touching a contaminated surface
- Using public toilets and bathrooms
- Entering public swimming pools
- Being or working in crowded places such as schools, kindergartens, hospitals, hotels
How to Diagnose Norovirus?
The diagnosis of norovirus is usually made based on symptoms. If you have a weakened immune system and other symptoms, doctors may order a stool test to determine the cause. However, the diagnosis of norovirus can be made without the need for testing, depending on the patient’s symptoms.
How to Treat Norovirus?
There is no specific treatment for norovirus, and the infection usually tends to go away on its own within a few days. Because norovirus is not a bacterial infection, it does not respond to treatment with antibiotics. The treatment plan is aimed at eliminating symptoms caused by norovirus and correcting dehydration (losing more water than normal). These usually include certain medications to control nausea and diarrhea and rehydration fluids to replace dehydration. Since norovirus can cause dehydration, it is important to drink plenty of water during the illness. In cases of insufficient fluid intake, intravenous serum treatments may be required.
Natural Methods for Norovirus Treatment
The first thing a person infected with norovirus should do is undoubtedly self-isolate. In this way, the person can both protect others from the risk of contamination and prevent the progression of the disease by getting plenty of rest. Some of the natural methods that can be applied at home in the treatment of norovirus are as follows:
- To rest
- Drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration
- Do not disrupt your eating routine and follow a light and easy-to-digest diet
- Consuming lean proteins such as rice, potatoes, bananas and natural probiotics such as yoghurt and kefir
- Avoiding sugary and caffeinated drinks as they can worsen diarrhea
- Avoid consuming milk and dairy products, spicy and fatty foods that may trigger nausea
Ways to Prevent Norovirus Infection
Since noroviruses constantly undergo genetic changes, there is no vaccine developed to protect against the disease. One of the most effective ways to protect against norovirus infection is to comply with hygiene rules. Since noroviruses live in cold or hot environments, disinfection can be difficult. For this reason, it is necessary to follow good hygiene rules and be careful not to come into close contact with people. In general, some of the ways to protect yourself from norovirus infection are as follows:
- Not Neglecting Hand Cleaning: Washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds after going to the toilet, after changing a diaper, or before preparing food is one of the most effective methods of protecting against other viral diseases, especially norovirus.
- Paying Attention to Surface Cleaning: Especially if you are in the same environment with an infected person, clean the kitchen, bathroom, etc. It is important to clean countertops and other surfaces frequently with bleach-based cleaners. This minimizes the risk of norovirus not being able to adhere to surfaces and infecting other people.
- Not Leaving Garbage Waiting: Especially dirty baby diapers and used napkins, toilet paper, etc. Throwing away waste without delay can prevent the transmission of norovirus. The point to be considered here is to use clean gloves before throwing it in the trash.
- Washing Vegetables and Fruits Well: Washing raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly can reduce the risk of norovirus and other food-borne viruses. Apart from this, shellfish such as oysters should be cooked thoroughly before eating.
- Being Careful During Travel: Spending long hours on public transportation or being in public areas such as hotels or cruise ships may increase the risk of norovirus transmission. For this reason, it is important to use a mask, pay attention to hygiene rules and prefer well-cooked foods and bottled drinks when being in such places.
What are Norovirus Complications?
Most people recover from norovirus in a short time and it does not cause permanent damage. However, babies; It may be more severe and cause some complications in young children, elderly people, pregnant women and individuals with low immunity. The most important complication that norovirus can cause is dehydration. Some of the negative situations that may occur due to dehydration are:
- Dizziness while standing
- Dry mouth and throat
- Less urination
- Very deep and persistent sleepiness
- Crying with no or very few tears
- Dullness and indifference
- burnout state
When Does Norovirus Become Dangerous?
Norovirus is not dangerous most of the time. However, it can sometimes progress in people in the risk group, and in such a case, it is necessary to consult a doctor without delay. Some of the situations that require urgent medical help are as follows:
- If diarrhea is severe and continues for more than 3 days
- If the body’s dehydration cannot be prevented
- If you have a high fever
- If there is bloody stool
- If the person has another existing health problem
If you are experiencing some symptoms caused by norovirus or have recently come into contact with an infected person, you can consult a healthcare provider.