5 Facts About the Norwalk Virus

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The Norwalk Virus tends to strike during the winter months. It can affect groups of people who spend a lot of time together, such as children attending a day care or school, or those people who live in the same household or long-term care facility. People who attend a banquet together or who travel on a cruise ship may also be at risk.

Fact #1: Norwalk Virus is also known as “stomach flu.”

If you experience a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, you may have come down with the Norwalk virus. After a person has been exposed to the virus, he or she will likely start feeling ill within 24-48 hours. The symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. Nausea, head and body aches, and a low-grade fever are not uncommon. Since this illness is viral in nature, there are no specific treatments available. Antibiotics will not be effective; you need to let the illness run its course.

Fact #2: The Norwalk Virus was identified in the early 1970s.

A group of primary school children became ill with diarrhea and vomiting. After the virus was isolated, it was named for the location of the school (Norwalk, Ohio). Several viruses make up the Norovirus group.

Fact #3: The Norwalk Virus is highly contagious.

In some instances, the Norwalk Virus is spread when someone touches fecal matter or vomit from an infected person and then touches their mouth. Sharing utensils or food with an infected person can also spread the virus. It can also be spread by touching an object (door knob, stair rail, telephone) and then touching your mouth. The Norwalk Virus can also be spread through the air.

Fact #4: Norwalk Virus can be prevented by thorough hand washing.

Everyone who handles food should get in the habit of thoroughly washing their hands after using the bathroom and before handling food. Don’t share drink cups or utensils with other people. If you are caring for someone who is experiencing the symptoms of a stomach flu, be sure to wash your hands after being in direct contact with them.

Fact #5: You are at risk for the Norwalk Virus.

Everyone is at risk for being exposed to the Norwalk Virus. Although in most cases, the illness only lasts for a day or two, it can be more serious for young children, seniors, or those who also have an underlying medical condition. Dehydration caused by vomiting is always a concern, and it’s important to keep drinking fluids to prevent this while you are having symptoms.