Norovirus is a highly contagious virus which leads to gastroenteritis, that is the pathogen causes inflammation of the stomach and the intestines. The virus outbreaks are most commonly observed where people are in close proximity, such as schools. As per the centre of diseases control and prevention (CDC) norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis and is estimated to have caused 685 million cases worldwide. It’s also reported that every one out of five cases of gastroenteritis which leads to vomiting and diarrhea is caused by norovirus.
Moreover, the seriousness of the disease is highlighted further since of these 200 million cases are seen in the children’s those are below the age of five. In addition, this causes an alarming 50,000 thousand child deaths every year. The illness is estimated to cost $65 billion in healthcare costs and forgone productivity across the globe. The virus nicked named “the cruise ship virus” since recently it sickened about 500 people abord two US based cruise ships. The cases have also seen a bump in Europe and Canada.
Furthermore, the virus is making headlines across US. In New York, people visiting emergency rooms due to symptoms- vomiting and diarrhea has risen by 50% since December. That is ER visits due to vomiting has increased from 2400 in December to 3700 in February, In comparison for diarrhea, it has increased from 1400 to 2100 respectively. Furthermore a school in Livonia was shut due to the outbreak. The cases have also seen a bump in Europe and Canada.
An expert on foodborne and waterborne disease at Emory university, Dr. Christine Moe said, “It’s just an incredibly successful virus, when it comes to infecting people”. As exposure to just a 100 or fewer norovirus particles can cause an infection. The outbreaks are most common in cooler winter months. Hence, it’s also nicknamed “winter vomiting disease”.
How does Norovirus spread?
The virus spreads with ease from person to person via “fecal-oral” transmission. One can catch it from consuming contaminated water or food. One can also catch it from touching contaminated surfaces. Since this virus is passed through particles in the feces which are invisible to the naked eye. It hence unknowingly spreads. While one can come easily in contract of the infection if they don’t wash their hands properly after using restroom.
What are the symptoms of Norovirus?
An infectious diseases specialist at The University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston, Dr. Luis Ostrosky said, “norovirus is very violent and inconvenient”. The symptoms include (according to CDC):
- Stomach pains
These symptoms usually occur after 12 to 48 hours of exposure to the virus, while it takes one to three days to cure. One of the biggest risks of the virus is severe dehydration since it causes repeated vomiting and diarrhea.
Treatment for Norovirus?
There is currently no specific treatment for the pathogen, and antibiotics are not effective against it since it is a viral infection. While, a vaccine is yet to be developed. Hence, the treatment is to specifically focus on relieving symptoms and preventing dehydration. In addition, it is of utmost importance to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands frequently, especially after using the toilet and before handling food, to prevent the spread of the virus. One should know the alcohol based sanitizers don’t work against norovirus, unlike the Covid-19. Other prevention measures include:
- Properly cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and objects
- Avoiding contact with infected individuals or contaminated areas
- Properly cooking and handling food