Norovirus outbreak: What you need to know about the stomach bug


When you hear about a norovirus outbreak, cruise ships may be the first thing that comes to mind.

But the nasty virus that many people refer to as the “stomach bug” or “stomach flu” is more common than you may realize, and there have been multiple outbreaks this year.

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Norovirus warning: What you need to know

Norovirus, which sickens 19 to 21 million people in the U.S. every year, spreads quickly from person to person in enclosed places like nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.

It can also cause outbreaks at restaurants if contaminated food is served or people handling food are sick.

Got norovirus? 7 common symptoms

How do you know you have it? These symptoms will come on fast:

  • Diarrhea
  • Throwing up
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

Symptoms usually last between 24 and 48 hours, primary care physician Dr. John Hong told

Norovirus can be spread by consuming contaminated food or water, but most infections occur when infected people give the virus to others, even by doing something as simple as shaking hands.

How to prevent a norovirus infection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water carefully. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but not as a substitute.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables before eating. Cook shellfish thoroughly.
  • After throwing up or having diarrhea, clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using a chlorine bleach solution.
  • Remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool.
  • Don’t prepare food or care for others when you’re sick and for at least two days after your symptoms stop.

Norovirus can be found in your stool before you start feeling sick, the CDC said. The virus can stay in your stool for up to two weeks or more after you feel better.


That’s why it’s so important to wash your hands thoroughly, especially during this period.

When to see a doctor

As Dr. Hong explains in the video below, you may want to go to the ER or an urgent care facility if you can’t hold anything down because over-the-counter medications haven’t been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting.

And make sure to stay hydrated to replace fluids that are lost from throwing up and diarrhea, the CDC recommends.

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