Eskenazi Health pediatrician
Throughout the country this winter season we’re seeing a dramatic uptick in the number of norovirus cases. Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone can get infected and sick with norovirus from an infected person by consuming contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth.
The virus spreads very easily and quickly from infected people to others, so an increase in norovirus cases is never a surprise. The peak season for norovirus is often from November to April. The average incubation period for norovirus-associated stomach upset is 12 to 48 hours and symptoms include nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus causes a person’s stomach or intestines to become inflamed and is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis – stomach upset – in the U.S., making approximately 20 million people sick in the U.S. each year.
To protect yourself and others from contracting norovirus, you’ll want to wash your hands often. It takes a rigorous scrubbing with very hot water to kill it. Alcoholbased hand sanitizers do not kill the virus. You’ll also want to rinse fruits and vegetables before serving them, cook shellfish thoroughly, stay home when sick for at least two days after symptoms dissipate, and avoid preparing food for others when sick and for two days after symptoms stop.
Even at room temperature, norovirus may persist on surfaces for several days. The CDC suggests using bleach to kill it, including chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Because it is so hard to get rid of norovirus on hands and surfaces, it is the most common cause of food borne illness.
There is no treatment for norovirus, so doing all you can to prevent it is important. While riding it out it’s best to take small frequent sips of liquids such as water, Pedialyte mixed with juice or watered down Gatorade to avoid dehydration from diarrhea and throwing up. Eating bland complex carbohydrates such as rice or noodles can help slow down the diarrhea. Most people get better within one to three days.
If you are in need of a pediatrician for your child or a primary care physician for yourself or anyone else, please call 317-880- 7666 or visit www.eskenazihealth.edu/doctors.