Ask-the-Dr, the online doctor that gives online medical consultation, knows that norovirus is one of the most infectious viruses a human being can contract. This virus causes the great majority of cases of gastroenteritis and food poisoning. Because it’s largely transmitted through food and water that have been contaminated by feces, it’s very easy for people to catch during vacations in places where the sanitation is uncertain. It can also be caught by students on spring break, or by people sharing close quarters with other people. The virus can even be spread through the air when the person vomits, or when a toilet full of infected matter is flushed without the lid being down.
Norovirus symptoms are basically those of a severe but acute case of gastroenteritis, acute meaning it doesn’t last long. The patient experiences nausea, sometimes projectile vomiting, abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea, all the hallmarks of what people call the “stomach flu.” There’s also a general feeling of malaise. This phase of the disease rarely lasts more than two and a half days and though it does make the patient thoroughly miserable, is rarely fatal. People who are very young, very old or have compromised immune systems, like people with HIV/AIDs, are more at risk for life threatening complications. All sufferers should make sure they get adequate hydration because of the diarrhea.
Even after the patient’s symptoms have gone away, they should still be careful in their interactions with other people. They will still be infectious for some time after they begin to feel well.
Norovirus treatments emphasize that the patient get plenty of plain, fresh water, especially if the patient is a child. Alcoholic beverages, fruit juices and sodas aren’t recommended, as they can possibly make any diarrhea worse. Yogurt with active live cultures should also help in ridding the body of the virus and anti-vomiting medicines might be given if the vomiting is severe. Otherwise, if the patient can tolerate food, there should be no change in the diet, if the diet is uncontaminated.
Though not a substitute for a general practice physician, Ask-the-Dr’s over-the-phone medical advice can help a patient or parent gain some idea as to what might be happening to them or their child. This can be of great help before they’re seen at the doctor’s office or emergency room. People shouldn’t hesitate to call Ask-the-Dr at 888-448-7633 for any medical questions.