• Health Alert: Norovirus

    What is Norovirus?

    “Norovirus” refers to an intestinal virus that can cause symptoms such as low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramping. Some people refer to this as the “stomach flu” but it is not related to influenza which is a respiratory illness. 

    How is it Spread?

    Norovirus is spread by “fecal-oral transmission.” That means you can get it by:

    • Eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with norovirus (someone gets stool or vomit on their hands then touches food or drink)
    • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand/fingers in your mouth
    • Having direct contact with someone who is infected with the norovirus, then sharing foods, drinks, lipstick, cigarettes or eating utensils with them.

    How Contagious is It?

    Norovirus can spread very quickly from person to person, especially those residing together and using the same bathroom facilities.  People with norovirus illness are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least 3 days after they recover.

    Most people recover from the illness within 24 to 72 hours from the onset of symptoms. Remember!  Even though infected persons begin to feel better, they can continue to shed the virus for several days after the symptoms have subsided, so continue to maintain the same precautions listed below.

    Prevention

    • Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Hands!!!
      • Wash your hands with soap and water before eating (no kidding!!)
      • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet.
      • Hand sanitizers will reduce the number of germs but is NOT highly effective in killing the norovirus.  The single best way to prevent spread is to use soap and water and wash thoroughly!
    • Do NOT Prepare Food While Infected! Wash food items!
      • Persons who have been infected with the norovirus should not prepare food for up to 3 days after symptoms have subsided.
      • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables and cook any raw shellfish before eating them.
    • Clean and Disinfect Contaminated Surfaces
      • After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces with a bleach-based household cleaner.
      • Remember to also wipe down shared doorknobs and keyboards.
      • Do NOT share towels!
      • Wash contaminated utensils, glasses and plates either in a dishwasher or with very hot soapy water and dried thoroughly.
    • Wash Contaminated Laundry
      • Wash clothing, linens and towels that may be contaminated with vomit or stool.
        • If possible, use disposable gloves when handling contaminated laundry.  If gloves are not available, then wash hands after handling.
      • Make certain to wash any contaminated laundry in hot water, preferably with bleach, and then machine dried.

    Treatment

    There is no drug to treat people who get sick from the norovirus.  Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Most people will get better on their own within 24 to 72 hours.  However, the most serious complication from norovirus comes from dehydration.  Symptoms of dehydration include feeling dizzy upon standing, dry mouth and throat, decreased urination.  If you think you or someone you know is severely dehydrated, contact the Health Center at 732-571-3464 or after hours, Monmouth University Police at 732-571-4444.

    Here are some ways to prevent dehydration:

    • Drink clear liquids. This includes things like water, Gatorade, ginger ale, herbal teas.
    • Avoid caffeinated products and alcohol as these will cause further dehydration.
    • Avoid juices with pulp and milk products as these can increase diarrhea.
    • Take small frequent sips of fluids.

    Once the nausea and vomiting have subsided and appetite has returned, start with simple carbohydrates like toast, crackers and white rice.  If these are well tolerated, you can slowly advance your diet.