Norovirus: What You Need to Know
Norovirus is a highly contagious (easily spread) virus that causes gastroenteritis, which is inflammation (swelling) of the stomach and intestines. This inflammation leads to cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Norovirus is a common cause of gastroenteritis on college campuses. Up to 21 million people get sick from norovirus each year in the United States – making it the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States. Anyone can get infected with norovirus and, because there are multiple strains, you can get it more than once.
Norovirus spreads quickly and easily from person to person
Norovirus spreads quickly from person to person in enclosed places like residence halls and classrooms. Someone sick with norovirus is most contagious when they are actively sick (having diarrhea, vomiting, etc.) with norovirus illness and during the first few days after symptoms end. It can sometimes take up to 2 weeks or more for norovirus to get out of your system.
You can get sick from norovirus by:
- Eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with norovirus
- Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth, for example, when you are eating
- Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus, for example, when caring for someone with norovirus or sharing foods or eating utensils with them
Symptoms of norovirus infection usually being 12 to 48 hours after you are exposed to the virus.
Common symptoms of norovirus infection include:
- Stomach pain
You may also experience fever, headache, and body aches
Norovirus can also lead to dehydration in people who are extremely ill and have thrown up or have had diarrhea many times in one day. Some symptoms of dehydration include:
- Urinating less often
- Dry mouth and throat
- Feeling dizzy when standing up
If you are experiencing symptoms of norovirus with or without dehydration:
- Students: call Stamps Health Services for an appointment (404-894-1420)
- Faculty, Staff, and Community Members: go to a nearby healthcare facility to seek treatment
There is no vaccine to prevent or drug to treat norovirus infection. Additionally, antibiotics are not effective against norovirus. If you are sick make sure to drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration.
Norovirus can live on hard surfaces, objects (like your cell phone), and clothes and cause illness for days to weeks.
The best way to prevent yourself from getting and spreading norovirus is to practice good personal hygiene. Here are SIX things YOU can do to help protect yourself and the Georgia Tech community from norovirus:
- If you are sick, call Stamps Health Services for an appointment (404-894-1420) and stay home until you have been symptom free for 48 hours. Symptoms typically last 12 to 36 hours.
- Practice proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help reduce the number of germs on your hands, but they do not work well against norovirus.
- Do not SHARE food, drinks, eating utensils, drink containers, or clothing – especially athletic gear.
- Take care in the kitchen. Carefully rinse fruits and vegetables and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating. People sick from norovirus should not prepare food for others until they have been symptom free for one week.
- Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. After vomiting or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If you don’t have a bleach-based cleaner, you can make a dilute bleach solution by combining 5 tablespoons of household bleach for each gallon of water.
- Wash laundry thoroughly. Immediately remove and wash clothing and/or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool carefully. Try not to shake them – this can cause the virus to spread. If you can, wear rubber or disposable gloves when handling and wash your hands after. Wash items with detergent at the maximum cycle length and then machine dry to kill the virus.
For more information about norovirus on Georgia Tech's campus, go to health.gatech.edu/health-advisory.
For more information about norovirus, visit cdc.gov/norovirus.