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Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are also known as: 'winter vomiting disease', 'small round structured virus' (SRSV) and 'Norwalk-like viruses'. This group of viruses are one of the most common causes for stomach bugs, also known as gastroenteritis in the UK. Norovirus can often cause outbreaks in schools, nursing homes and hospitals as it is very infectious. It is easily spread from one person to another and can survive in the environment for several days.
How the infection is spread
Norovirus can be spread easily from one person to another, by:
- Coming into contact with someone infected with the virus
- Eating contaminated food
- Drinking contaminated water
- Contact with surfaces and/or objects contaminated
- Contact with vomit or diarrhoea from an infected person
Immunity against the norovirus is short-lived, therefore, it is very possible to become infected again.
The main norovirus symptoms are:
- Stomach cramps
Other symptoms that people may have include:
- A fever (Temperature over 38°C/100.4°F)
- Aching/sore limbs
The first indicator of norovirus symptoms is usually a sudden onset of nausea, followed by vomiting and watery diarrhoea.
Due to the excessive vomiting and diarrhoea, this loss of body fluid can cause dehydration (not enough fluid in the body). Dehydration is a risk in the very young and the elderly. Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Dark, concentrated urine
- Passing only small amounts of urine (fewer than three or four times a day)
Signs of severe dehydration can develop, such as an inability to pass urine and a low level of consciousness.
The symptoms of norovirus start one to two days after becoming infected with the virus and can last for 12-60 hours. Most people can make a full recovery within 1-2 days, however, some people (very young and elderly) may become very dehydrated and need hospital treatment.
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- HPA (2008).
- Norovirus information sheet for schools and nurseries http://www.school-portal.co.uk/resource/2920617/10_12201008031105_60.pdf
- NHS Choices website Norovirus