Norovirus

[nor-row virus]

Family eating dinner

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. People of all ages can get infected and sick with norovirus. You can get it from having close contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your fingers in your mouth. There’s no vaccine to prevent infection and no drug to treat it. Wash your hands often and follow some simple prevention tips to stay healthy.

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Key Facts

  • Norovirus causes about 20 million illnesses, 70,000 hospitalizations, and 800 deaths each year in the United States.
  • Most people get norovirus from having close contact with an infected person or by eating contaminated food.
  • Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States.
  • Symptoms of norovirus illness begin suddenly and usually include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain.
  • Infected people are contagious when they have symptoms but also spread it a few days before and after they have symptoms.

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Father and son washing hands

Practice Proper Hand Washing

Wash your hands carefully and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet and always before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. But, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.

Infographic on how to protect yourself for norovirus

Protect Yourself from Norovirus

Some simple tips to protect yourself and others from norovirus: wash your hands often; cook shellfish to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; don’t prepare food or care for others when you’re sick; rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly; and, after vomiting or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect surfaces and wash soiled laundry.

Woman reaching for glass of water

Avoid Dehydration

You may get dehydrated if you are not able to drink enough liquids to replace the fluids lost from throwing up or having diarrhea many times a day. The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids.

Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands carefully and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but they should not be a substitute for washing with soap and water.
  • When preparing food, carefully rinse fruits and vegetables and thoroughly cook shellfish, such as oysters.
  • Do not prepare food or provide care for others when you are sick with norovirus and for at least 3 days after you feel better.
  • Immediately clean and sanitize surfaces that have been contaminated with diarrhea or vomit. Use disposable gloves to wipe up vomit or diarrhea with paper towels. Next, use a bleach cleaner on the surface, then clean the surface again with hot water and soap.

More at CDC.gov

Page last reviewed: December 10, 2019