Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes gastrointestinal illness in humans. The symptoms of a norovirus infection typically begin 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus and can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. The illness usually lasts one to three days and most people recover fully without treatment. Some people with a norovirus infection can become so dehydrated that they may need special medical attention. People can get sick with norovirus by eating or drinking food or liquids that are contaminated with the virus, having contact with other people or surfaces that are carrying the virus, or by swimming in contaminated water.
Norovirus infections can happen at any time of year, but in Vermont norovirus outbreaks occur much more often during the winter months. These outbreaks are commonly reported in settings where many people are gathered together, such as long term care facilities, hospitals, schools, colleges, child care centers, restaurants, conferences, catered parties and correctional facilities. In the warmer months, outbreaks of norovirus in Vermont have occurred at recreational water locations.
People infected with norovirus can spread the virus to others from the moment they begin feeling ill until at least three days after they recover. Some people may shed the virus for as long as two weeks after recovery. To prevent the spread of norovirus to others, people with a norovirus infection should:
- Frequently and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water
- Stay home from work or school until the symptoms have stopped for at least 24 hours
- Do not prepare or handle food for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have ended
- Do not provide health care to others for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have ended
- Do not enter recreational water for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have ended
- Clean and disinfect any surfaces that may have been contaminated with vomit or feces
- Wash clothes or linens that may have been contaminated
Known or suspected outbreaks of norovirus should be reported to the Vermont Department of Health by calling 800-640-4374. The Department of Health offers free norovirus testing for reported outbreaks.
For more information on norovirus, visit the CDC website.