Norovirus symptoms tend to pass after a few days, but the virus can live on surfaces — and sicken others — for up to two weeks. Here’s how to fight it.
You may know noroviruses by their hallmark symptoms — vomiting and diarrhea. Also known as gastroenteritis or winter stomach bug, norovirus is sometimes mistaken for food poisoning. Symptoms tend to pass after a few days, but norovirus can live on surfaces — and sicken others — for up to two weeks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noroviruses cause anywhere from 19 million to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis per year. While most symptoms aren’t serious, diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration.
How does norovirus spread?
Like many illnesses, norovirus spreads via contact with the infection. And unlucky for us, norovirus is very contagious and very hard to kill: It can live in water, survive extreme temperatures and be passed through a wide variety of means.
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If you’ve picked up a norovirus, symptoms appear within 24 to 48 hours and last one to three days.
How long does norovirus live on surfaces?
The virus can live on hard or soft surfaces for about two weeks; in still water it can live months or possibly years.
Old-fashioned scrubbing your hands with soap and water is the best protection against getting sick. There is no vaccine against norovirus; it can survive freezing and temperatures up to 140 F, and hand sanitizers have no effect on it.
If you or someone in your home gets sick, do not prepare food for at least three days, and wipe hard surfaces with a bleach-based disinfectant. Wash blankets or other soft items in hot water.