• India
  • Jan 24

Explainer / What is norovirus?

• Kerala government said norovirus infection was confirmed in two students in Kochi.

• Norovirus is a viral illness that is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis globally with symptoms including acute onset diarrhoea and vomiting.

• The students of Class 1 and 2 of a school were found infected and three children are now under treatment.

• As many as 62 students and a few parents of the school exhibited symptoms following which two samples were sent for testing at the State Public Laboratory.

The winter vomiting bug

• Norovirus is highly infectious and causes vomiting and diarrhoea, but usually passes in a couple of days. 

• In some countries, Norovirus is commonly known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’.

• Noroviruses belong to the family Caliciviridae. They are a group of non-enveloped, single-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses that primarily cause acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines).

• The term norovirus was approved as the official name for this group of viruses in 2002. Previously, they were called Norwalk-like viruses, as norovirus was first identified as a virus in 1972 an outbreak of gastroenteritis in a school in Norwalk, Ohio in the US in 1968.

• It is easily transmitted through contact with infected individuals or contaminated surfaces.

• The illness is easily spread in group settings where people are in close contact, like schools, hospitals, childcare facilities, nursing homes, cruise ships, and passenger trains.

People can become infected with the virus in several ways:

• Through direct contact with another infected person (for example, when caring for or diapering an ill child, or sharing food or utensils with an ill person).

• By touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus.

• By eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated.

• Most foodborne outbreaks of norovirus illness likely happen when food is contaminated by food handlers who have the virus, especially if they do not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom.

What are the symptoms and treatment?

• People infected with norovirus usually develop symptoms of gastroenteritis within 24 to 48 hours.

The main symptoms of norovirus illness are:

• Diarrhoea

• Vomiting (children usually experience more vomiting than adults)

• Nausea

• Stomach cramps.

Other symptoms may include:

• Low-grade fever

• Headache

• Muscle aches

• Fatigue (a general sense of tiredness).

• Most people feel better within one or two days, with symptoms resolving on their own and no long-term health effects. However, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, young children and the elderly are at risk for developing more serious complications, like dehydration.

• As with any disease causing diarrhea or vomiting, people infected should drink plenty of liquids to replace lost body fluids and prevent dehydration.

• There is no vaccine or medicine that will prevent a norovirus infection.

• To prevent getting infected from norovirus, wash hands with soap and water or sanitiser after using the washroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

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