What You Should Know About Norovirus

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woman with stomach ache outside of restroom

What people sometimes call the “stomach flu” isn’t really influenza – it’s usually a syndrome called viral gastroenteritis caused by other viruses. The most common of these viruses in adults is called norovirus, and it’s highly contagious.

Norovirus spreads from infected feces or vomit. The best way to protect yourself and your family is for everyone to wash their hands often and well. If you’re changing diapers or cleaning up after a sick kid, washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.

The virus spreads easily and is often picked up when we touch hard surfaces used by many (e.g., doorknobs, sink faucets, cutting boards). The best ways to keep things clean and virus-free are to:

  • Stay away from food-prep areas if you’re sick or recovering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water — hand sanitizers don’t do as good of a job.
  • Use disinfectant cleaners/wipes to kill viruses on hard surfaces, such as counters, doorknobs and light switches. Look for an indication on the label that it kills norovirus.

Norovirus Symptoms

Norovirus symptoms may include:

  • Cramps or aching belly
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea/Vomiting

Getting Better

The good news about norovirus is that it usually runs its course in a day or two. But while you’re suffering, it’s important to stay hydrated. Replace the minerals lost through diarrhea and vomiting by drinking fluids that contain electrolytes — just steer clear of sports drinks that have a lot of sugar and salt.

Once you’re feeling better, keep your diet light for a few days with foods that are easy to digest.

Visit emoryhealthcare.org/flu for more information.

Know Where to Go

If you or someone in your family has symptoms for more than three days, visit your primary care physician (PCP). Other reasons to see your PCP include:

  • Bloody stool or vomit.
  • Lack of urine or dark urine, which may mean dehydration.
  • Oral temperature of over 101.5°F.

If you can’t get a doctor’s appointment at a time that works for you, you can also consider an urgent care center. Learn more about Emory Healthcare Network’s partnerships with organizations such as CVS MinuteClinics and Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care. Combined, these partners provide more than 70 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties and put convenient care where you need it, 7 days a week and no appointment necessary.

When to Go to the ER

It’s time for the ER if you or someone in your care is suffering with:

  • A temperature over 102°F for more than 2 days that doesn’t respond to medicine.
  • Severe dehydration (symptoms include dark urine or lack of urine).
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness on standing.

If you go to the ER or take a family member, have key information ready for the nurse or doctor. Keep track of when symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever or rash has lasted, how often your child has gone to the bathroom, any medications, who they’ve been in contact with, and any other health concerns. Bring water, snacks and a toy for your child.

If you’re not sure, call your family doctor or Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.