What is norovirus?

Highly contagious stomach bug makes its way across the country

There are multiple reports of norovirus sweeping the country and making entire families miserable. But what exactly is it?

“Norovirus is a group of viruses that cause inflammation in the stomach and intestines,” said Paul Schulz, M.D.Norton Infectious Disease Specialists. “It causes people to have a lot of cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea for one to three days.”

The virus also may cause chills, low fever, muscle aches, headache and fatigue. It’s often confused with food poisoning or the flu.

An estimated 19 to 21 million people are infected with this common virus each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, it causes up to 71,000 hospitalizations and between 570 and 800 deaths per year.

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“Since this is a virus, there is no medication that can help,” Dr. Schulz said. “You simply need to treat the symptoms and wait for it to pass.”

The most dangerous symptom is dehydration, which in its severe form is marked by decreased urination, sunken eyes, dry skin and mouth, dizziness, lethargy and confusion. If this occurs, seek medical care immediately.To prevent this from happening, drink uncaffeinated and nonalcoholic drinks, such as water, sports drinks or rehydration drinks.

“This is a highly contagious virus and is spread on contact,” Dr. Schulz said. “You can get it by touching something with the norovirus on it, such as a door knob or table, or even caring for someone who has the virus.”

Therefore, it’s extremely important this time of year to be proactive about prevention which includes proper hand washing. Since people with this virus are contagious right away and then for several days after they feel better, don’t wait until someone around you is sick to take precautions.Practice proper hand washing all of the time.

If you need medical assistance, call your primary care provider or visit one of our Norton Immediate CareCenters. To find a primary care provider near you, call (502) 629-1234.

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