What your doctor wants you to know about norovirus - the winter vomiting bug

washing hands with soap and water

As the colder weather makes its presence felt, the so-called winter vomiting bug can hit with a vengeance in a seemingly random fashion.

There are many viruses that can cause gastroenteritis but norovirus is one of the most common. Norovirus is a highly infectious virus, known for causing outbreaks in winter and on cruise ships and other places where people live in close proximity, such as aged-care facilities. It is the most common cause of diarrhoea in adults and children.

Here are 8 things your doctor wants you to know about norovirus so you don't fall victim to the winter vomiting bug, or if you do - how to treat it.

  1. Symptoms of vomiting, feeling sick (nausea) and diarrhoea usually begin 24–48 hours after ingestion of the virus, but can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure;
  2. People infected with norovirus can spread it from the day they start to feel ill until at least 2 days after diarrhoea or vomiting stops;
  3. There are many different strains of norovirus, which means long-lasting immunity is difficult to develop;
  4. There is no specific treatment for norovirus, but it is important to stay well hydrated. Because it's a virus, antibiotics are not effective;
  5. As well as making sure you drink plenty of fluids, oral rehydration solutions can be useful, especially for children;
  6. Intravenous fluids may be needed if a person cannot drink enough fluids;
  7. People should stay away from child care, school or work for a minimum of 48 hours after diarrhoea or vomiting stops; and
  8. Good hand hygiene is the single most effective way of preventing infection.  Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, and always before preparing or eating food.

References

1. The Department of Health
2. Cirrus Media GPs.
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