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Prevent the Spread of Norovirus

Group of young adults chopping fruits and vegetables

Millions of people get sick from norovirus each year. It causes sudden vomiting and diarrhea, and spreads quickly and easily to other people. If you think you have norovirus, stay hydrated and take steps to keep the virus from spreading.

Norovirus is very contagious. When you are sick with norovirus, you can shed billions of virus particles in your vomit and poop. It only takes a few of these particles to make someone sick.

You are most contagious

  • when you have symptoms of norovirus illness, especially vomiting
  • during the first few days after you recover from norovirus illness

However, you may still be able to spread norovirus for two weeks or more after you feel better.

You Can Spread Norovirus in Many Ways

If you are sick with norovirus, you can spread it to other people by having close contact, such as by caring for, preparing food, or sharing food or eating utensils, with them. You can also spread norovirus by contaminating surfaces. This can happen if you touch surfaces with your unwashed hands, then other people touch these surfaces and put their fingers in their mouths.

Take Steps to Keep Norovirus from Spreading

  • Wash your hands
    Wash your hands
     thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, and always before eating or preparing food.
  • Handle and prepare food safely
    Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating. If you are sick with norovirus, do not prepare food for others while you have symptoms and for at least 2 days after symptoms go away.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces
    After you vomit or have diarrhea, always thoroughly clean and disinfect the entire area immediately. Put on rubber or disposable gloves, and wipe the entire area with paper towels, then disinfect the area using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. Leave the bleach disinfectant on the affected area for at least five minutes then clean the entire area again with soap and hot water. Finish by cleaning soiled laundry, taking out the trash, and washing your hands.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly
    Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may have vomit or poop on it. Handle items carefully—try not to agitate them. If available, wear disposable gloves to handle soiled clothing or linens, and wash your hands after. Wash soiled items with detergent and hot water at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry them at the highest heat setting.
A woman with norovirus throwing up in the toilet

Norovirus is a germ that can cause foodborne illness (food poisoning). It is the most common germ that causes foodborne illness in the United States.

Norovirus and flu may share some symptoms, but the flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus, not norovirus.

Norovirus Symptoms

Most people who get sick from norovirus will have these symptoms:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • stomach pain

Some people may also have a fever, headache, or body aches.

Most people sick with norovirus get better in 1 to 3 days. Norovirus can be more serious for young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions. It can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death. To learn how to stay hydrated, see CDC’s norovirus treatment webpage.

Norovirus is common

About 20 million people get sick with norovirus each year in the United States. On average, a person will get norovirus about 5 times during their lifetime. People of all ages can get norovirus.

You can get norovirus any time of the year, but you are more likely to get it from November to April. Learn more about U.S. Trends and Outbreaks.