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Viruses are very different from bacteria and parasites, some of which can cause illnesses similar to norovirus infection.
Like all viral infections, noroviruses are not affected by treatment with antibiotics, and cannot multiply outside of a person's body.
Symptoms usually begin about 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, but they can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure.
Symptoms usually include:
In addition, people sometimes have:
The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people the symptoms last about 1 or 2 days and resolve without treatment.
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people.
Individuals can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. Both stool and vomit are infectious.
Particular care should be taken when dealing with young children in diapers who may have diarrhea.
People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. The virus "sheds" for 72 hours after the last symptoms. Therefore, it is particularly important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from a norovirus illness.
Currently, there is no antiviral medication that works against norovirus and there is no vaccine to prevent infection. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
If you are ill with vomiting and diarrhea, stay home and stay hydrated with plenty of fluids.
Dehydration is the most serious health effect that can result from norovirus infection. By drinking oral rehydration fluids (ORF), juice, or water, you can reduce your chance of becoming dehydrated. Sports drinks are an effective supplement for rehydration but should not be used alone since they are low in sodium and potassium.
If you can't keep down any fluids and are feeling very thirsty or lightheaded, please see your health care provider.
You can decrease your chance of contracting or spreading norovirus by following these preventive steps: