If someone says, “I had the flu last week and was in the bathroom for two days,” maybe it was actually norovirus.
Flu (influenza) symptoms are usually fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people, usually children, also have vomiting and diarrhea. However, the more likely culprit for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and the accompanying dehydration is the noroviruses, a group of viral infections.
Noroviruses are very contagious. They spread by contact with a contaminated surface or direct contact with vomit or feces of a sick person you’re caring for. This is why noroviruses spread so quickly within a family or other closed community, such as daycare centers and nursing homes.
A norovirus can even spread through the air when someone vomits, so persons with a suppressed immune system may want to wear a mask around anyone with norovirus symptoms.
Prevention measures to keep yourself from getting a norovirus include handwashing with soap and warm, running water. Immediately clean and disinfect surfaces in bathrooms or diaper-changing areas after use by a sick individual.
Take extra care to wash fruits and vegetables, and thoroughly cook fish and meat. Do not prepare food or go to work while you are sick with a norovirus. We can remain contagious from the minute we get ill until three days after recovery.
Rehydration is the main treatment for norovirus. Antibiotics don’t work, and therefore hand sanitizers don’t work against a norovirus either. Rubbing your hands under running water is the only way to get rid of the norovirus germs.
Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.