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Health Alert: Avoiding Norovirus

Published by , on Jan 31, 2013

By Sean McKenna, MD, Assistant Professor of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCUDr. Sean McKennaPeople tend to spend more time indoors and in close quarters during the winter, which creates an environment where viruses are transmitted quickly. While news stories caution us about the flu, we are just beginning to hear about norovirus.  Here’s what parents need to know:What is norovirus?A typical norovirus infection is known as “gastroenteritis,” because it infects both the stomach and intestines. The virus is very contagious and can be passed along through saliva or feces. When someone comes into contact with the saliva or feces from an infected patient, or touches an infected surface the virus is then spread to the person’s hand. If the person touches their mouth or nose with their hand, they can become infected.How it is prevented? The only way to prevent infection is by washing your hands frequently and keeping surfaces as clean as possible.What are the symptoms?Since the norovirus infects the stomach and the intestines, vomiting and diarrhea are both common symptoms. It can also cause fevers, weakness, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches.If someone becomes infected with norovirus, it is important to make sure they are getting as much nutrition as possible. Eating a normal diet is ideal, but if their system can’t tolerate a normal diet, it’s important to continue feeding them any foods their body can tolerate. If patients are unable to keep any solids down, try substituting milk or soup to provide nutrition and hydration. Clear fluids like pedialyte, gatorade or even water are also good options for hydration.For those with norovirus, the goal should be to avoid going for more than half a day without nutrition. Intake amounts should be very small and frequent in order to avoid vomiting. Normal amounts are fine when diarrhea is an issue.If you are concerned that your child is becoming dehydrated, call your doctor. Signs of dehydration can include dry mouth and urinating less than 3 times in 24 hours. Normally the infection lasts 1-3 days, but loose stools can linger for up to several weeks. Norovirus Quick Tips:

  • Symptoms: Vomiting and/or diarrhea, fevers, weakness/fatigue, muscle aches and headaches

  • Duration: Generally lasts 1-3 days, but loose stools can linger for longer

  • Prevention: Washing hands and keeping surfaces clean

  • Treatment: Nutrition is key. Continue feeding kids if possible, drinking milk or soup if they can’t tolerate solids, or drinking clear fluids if they can’t tolerate milk or soup

  • Dehydration: Patients might be getting dehydrated if they aren’t peeing AT LEAST 3 times every 24 hours (call your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about dehydration)


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