Norovirus

[nor-row virus]

Family eating dinner

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. People of all ages can get sick with norovirus. You can get norovirus if you have direct contact with someone who is sick, such as by caring for them or sharing food or utensils with them. You can also get it by eating or drinking food or water that has norovirus in it or by touching surfaces that have tiny particles of norovirus on them and then eating food tainted with norovirus or putting your fingers in your mouth. There’s no vaccine to prevent norovirus 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, 109,000 hospitalizations, and 900 deaths each year in the United States.
  • Most people get norovirus from having direct contact with an infected person or by eating food handled by an infected person
  • 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 can 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 with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet and always before eating or preparing food. You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in addition to handwashing but you should not use them as a substitute for washing with soap and water.

Infographic on how to protect yourself for norovirus
Protect Yourself from Norovirus

You can protect yourself and others from norovirus by following some simple tips: wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; 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 with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in addition to handwashing but not as 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 2 days after you feel better.
  • Immediately clean and sanitize surfaces that have diarrhea or vomit on them. Use disposable gloves to wipe up vomit or diarrhea with paper towels. Next, use a bleach-based or other approved cleanerpdf iconexternal icon on the surface, then clean the surface again with hot water and soap.

More Information

Page last reviewed: November 23, 2020