Norovirus

Key points about norovirus

  • Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis (gastro).
  • Norovirus is very easily spread from one person to another and is very common in day care centres, rest homes and cruise ships.
  • Symptoms include feeling or being sick, tummy pain, diarrhoea (runny poo), headache, fever and muscle aches.
  • If your child under 6 months old shows symptoms, get medical help fast.

 

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Norovirus is spread from someone who has the virus, as their poo and vomit are infectious. Also, norovirus can survive on surfaces and objects for a long time.

This means you can catch norovirus by:

  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your fingers in your mouth
  • having direct contact with someone who is infected with norovirus, such as by caring for them or sharing food or eating utensils with them.

Norovirus affects people of all ages. You are more likely to get norovirus if you:

  • have contact with infected people
  • do not wash your hands properly
  • are not careful with cleanliness when preparing food
  • attend daycare or school or live in a dormitory, hostel or rest home
  • have a weak immune system.

Children who are 5 years old and younger, adults over 65 years old and people with weak immune systems, as a result of having other conditions, are more likely to have severe symptoms.

Both adults and children can be infected with norovirus. Symptoms of norovirus are:

  • feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting)
  • tummy pain (stomach cramps)
  • runny poos (diarrhoea)
  • headache
  • fever or chills
  • muscle aches.

The symptoms often begin within 1–2 days of coming into contact with the virus, and usually last for 2 days. Some people who are infected may not have symptoms. 

See your doctor immediately
  • If you have a child under 6 months with symptoms of norovirus.
  • If you or someone you are caring for:
    • has runny poos and tummy pain for more than 24 hours or their symptoms get worse
    • has a high fever, goes pale or limp or is unusually tired, drowsy or irritable
    • has blood or mucus in their poo
    • is not drinking and shows signs of dehydration, such as not peeing or only producing small amounts of dark urine (pee), or has a dry mouth.

There is no specific treatment or vaccination for norovirus. Norovirus is not treated with antibiotics because it is caused by a virus, not a bacteria.

Most people with norovirus can be looked after at home and do not need to see a doctor. Rest and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Do not take medicine to stop vomiting or diarrhoea as this will stop your body getting rid of the virus. However, if you see a doctor they may give you medicine to stop vomiting or diarrhoea if they are worried you are getting dehydrated.

Avoid spreading it to others

If you are infected with norovirus, you can avoid spreading it to others by doing these things:

  • Regularly washing and drying your hands thoroughly.
  • Opening doors and windows to let fresh air into the room after you have been sick (vomited).
  • Use household chlorine bleach mixed with water to disinfect areas where vomit and poo have spilled, and clean surfaces and items you use often.
  • If you need to visit your doctor tell the receptionist or nurse about your symptoms before you go so that the practice can decide if infection control measures need to be put in place to stop other people getting sick.
  • Avoid contact with children, adults over 65 years old and people with weak immune systems until you have had no symptoms for 48 hours (2 days).
  • Do not prepare food for others until you have had no symptoms for 2 days.
  • Do not go swimming in pools until you have had no symptoms for 2 weeks.

Anyone with diarrhoea or vomiting should not go to work, school or daycare until 2 days after the symptoms have gone away. This is especially important for food handlers, healthcare workers, childcare workers and children at school or daycare.

Careful handwashing is key to preventing the spread of norovirus. Wash your hands with soap thoroughly:

  • after changing nappies
  • after going to the toilet
  • after caring for someone infected with the virus
  • before handling or eating food.

It is also important to:

  • cook all food thoroughly to kill any viruses
  • only drink water that is treated and known to be safe
  • boil water if you are not sure that it is safe to drink
  • protect your own water supply (if you have it) from animal and bird poo and treat the water
  • get your shellfish from a safe, reputable supplier
  • use household chlorine bleach mixed with water to disinfect surfaces and items that have touched poo or vomit
  • avoid visiting any place that has a norovirus outbreak.

Norovirus(external link) Auckland Regional Public Health Service
Norovirus (vomiting and diarrhoea bugs)(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ
Norovirus – symptoms and treatment(external link) Southern Cross, NZ
Norovirus(external link) NHS, UK

Resources

Norovirus(external link) Auckland Regional Public Health Service, NZ, 2021
Norovirus information sheet [PDF, 216 KB] Hawkes Bay Public Health Unit, NZ
Infectious diseases(external link) Health Ed and Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022

References

  1. Norovirus information sheet [PDF, 216 KB] Hawkes Bay Public Health Unit

Brochures

novovirus

Norovirus

Auckland Regional Public Health Service, NZ, 2021

novovirus information sheet

Norovirus information sheet

Hawkes Bay Public Health Unit, NZ

infectious diseases brochure

Infectious diseases

Health Ed and Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022

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Reviewed by: Ministry of Health Public Health Group

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