Norovirus

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is actually a name given to a group of viruses. Noroviruses are one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis (stomach bugs1). Inadequate hygiene is the main reason why this virus can be spread so quickly. Sufferers can experience both diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time, and if hands are not sufficiently washed, the virus can be transferred to anyone and anything the sufferer touches. This is why you often hear of outbreaks occurring in crowded, contained places such as cruise ships and hospitals.

Diagnosing, treating and preventing norovirus

Since the virus is transferred through diarrhoea, diagnosis is usually confirmed by testing a stool sample. This is probably more likely to happen during an outbreak. Otherwise, since it is such a common cause of gastroenteritis, testing samples is not usually needed.

If you have any kind of gastrointestinal illness, personal hygiene is crucial to reducing the spread of infection. So wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet also disinfect the toilet, seat, flush handle etc. Afterwards avoid preparing or serving food and try to stay at home until your symptoms have passed.

As with general diarrhoea, dehydration is one of the main risks, especially with young children and the elderly, so keeping up fluid intake is essential. You can also use an antidiarrhoeal medicine. For more advice, take a look at our treating diarrhoea section.
 


1 www.hse.ie

 

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Frequently Asked Questions
What is norovirus?

Noroviruses are one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis (stomach bugs). If you catch the virus you may experience diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time. Norovirus can spread quickly to others if you touch surfaces without washing your hands sufficiently. This is why you often hear of outbreaks occurring in crowded, contained places such as cruise ships and hospitals.

Do I need to let diarrhoea run its natural course to get rid of the bugs?

No. Some people believe that diarrhoea is the body's way of 'flushing out' the bugs that they think are causing the diarrhoea, and that anti-diarrhoea medicines act like a cork, keeping the bugs inside.
However, in reality, this is not how it works.
Although diarrhoea is often caused by bugs (bacteria or viruses), in many cases the cause can be non infectious such as stress and anxiety, IBS or menstrual symptoms. If an infection is present, the body’s immune system will normally get rid of it in a day or so. But in the meantime, IMODIUM® products can relieve your diarrhoea, help you feel better and carry on as normal. If symptoms persist, you should seek the advice of your doctor or pharmacist...

Glossary
Gastroenteritis

An inflammation of the stomach and the intestines, which can cause nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Viruses, food poisoning and stress can all cause gastroenteritis.

Norovirus

There are actually many types of norovirus; together they are part of a group of viruses that are the most common cause of gastroenteritis. Although they can infect people at any time of the year, it is often called the 'winter vomiting disease' because it is most common during winter.

Dehydration

When the body loses an excessive amount of water. Prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, as can heat exposure, prolonged vigorous exercise.