Norovirus Symptoms: 2013 Stomach Flu Bug Going Around

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The norovirus causes a sudden onset of symptoms. Photo by: GrahamColm

The norovirus causes a sudden onset of symptoms. Photo by: GrahamColm

Influenza isn’t the only virus that is making headlines in the United States this winter; the norovirus is also making people sick. And this year, there is a new strain of norovirus called GII.4 Sydney.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the norovirus is responsible for making 21 million people sick each year, but some people get the norovirus, also commonly called the stomach flu, mixed up with influenza, when in fact they are two totally different viruses.

Let’s take a look at norovirus symptoms and see what happens when it attacks your body.

Norovirus: Highly Contagious

The norovirus is highly contagious and spreads quickly and easily in places where there are a lot of people. Day cares, long-term care facilities, cruise ships, schools, and hotels are all places where there are a lot of people in small areas where norovirus outbreaks are likely to occur. The virus itself can live on practically anything, for up to 12 hours, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. (The flu virus can even live on household pets!) On contaminated surfaces such as carpet, norovirus has been shown to survive up to 12 days.

So how does this virus enter your body?

Stomach Flu Spreads

The norovirus lives in the vomit and stool of the sick person. If you’re sick, and you don’t wash your hands after using the bathroom or throwing up, then (even though you can’t see it on the your hands) you touch an object or prepare food, you’re transferring the virus to others. A healthy person comes along, picks up that same object and then touches his/her eyes, nose, or mouth and then the virus has a way in. If you haven’t gotten it yet, you can get the norovirus by eating food prepared by a sick person, if they haven’t washed their hands really thoroughly.

I know, you’re thinking – who’s going to be making food with the stomach flu? Well, unfortunately, you may still be contagious even after you feel better.

Norovirus Symptoms: Is it Stomach Flu?

So once the virus gets in, what happens next? The virus begins to multiply and then you start getting symptoms. If you have ever had the ‘stomach flu’ you know how miserable it can be.

Symptoms come on suddenly, usually within 12 to 48 hours after you’ve been exposed to the norovirus, and include: diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps. There are other symptoms, such as a low fever, chills, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches, but they’re uncommon. Generally most people recover in a day or two without any serious side effects, but remember – you’re still contagious even after you feel better!

stomach-flu

Norovirus Infection: Shedding the Virus

You start shedding the virus once it has worked its way into your cells. If you’re sick with the norovirus, you can shed billions of virus particles, but it only takes as few as 18 particles to infect someone, according to the CDC.

Although it is possible for you to shed this virus before you start to feel sick, generally shedding occurs once you have the symptoms and for two weeks or more after you feel better. This doesn’t mean that you are still contagious; the CDC reports that it is unclear whether or not norovirus sufferers are still contagious long after they have recovered.

Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best prevention. Image by: Bill Branson

Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best prevention. Image by: Bill Branson

Norovirus Prevention

Although there’s a norovirus vaccine in the works, there’s no antiviral treatment for the stomach flu, so your only option for avoiding this nasty virus is to prevent it. Practice good hand hygiene; wash your hands frequently and with soap and water. You can use hand sanitizer if clean water and soap are not available.

When cleaning up after someone who is sick; know that Clorox or Lysol Wipes may not kill the norovirus. To kill the norovirus you should use a bleach and water solution to wipe everything down. To make the bleach solution, use anywhere from 5 tablespoons to one and half cups of bleach to one gallon of water. You should also wash any clothes, sheets, or towels that may have come in contact with bodily fluids during your bout with illness.

Gastroenteritis or Stomach Flu or Norovirus

This year’s ‘GII.4 Sydney’ stomach flu is hitting hard, but by any name, the norovirus contributes to 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths every year. These hospitalizations and deaths mainly occur in young children and the elderly, but norovirus symptoms can make for a miserable couple of days for anyone, so your best option is prevention. One of the worst aspects of the stomach flu virus (other than that it doesn’t have a cure) is that there are so many different types of these viruses that, even after you get it once, you can still get sick again with another strain.

I know, just what you wanted to hear.

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© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
Decoded Everything is a non-profit corporation, dependent on donations from readers like you. Donate now, and keep the great information coming!

Comments

  1. My family just got it and it is now December. Of course, it was brought into our house for the holidays by thoughtless family members who didn’t feel compelled to tell us they were sick. My daughter and husband had severe vomiting and diarrhea. I didn’t have vomiting, only diarrhea. For me, it lasted 5 days; for them, it lasted 2 days.

    • My daughter got sick the day after Christmas – Thursday – fever, chills, aches, and a cough. Luckily, that was it for her. Unfortunately, the next afternoon, I started with horrible aches, chills, fever – but then I started with the big D, horrific nausea, headaches. It is four days later and the D hasn’t stopped yet. And it comes without warning – I was terrified I wouldn’t make it to the bathroom. I feel mostly okay now; barely eat anything other than broth, bananas and saltines, drink Gatorade and ginger ale. I’m SO annoyed at the fact that I probably got this shopping for presents or at the grocery store. I try so hard to disinfect, wash and sanitize hands, etc. because of bugs like this – but what can you do? It’s horrible.

  2. been down with this since dec 26 and prey its finally subsiding…chicken soup, fluida, sleep and
    WASH COUNTERS WITH BLEECH…Got to kill this virus..Makes you just feel lousey..happy 2014

  3. Im at the tail end of it,was throwing up like Linda Blair did in Exorcist!Was comin from both ends,I got sick xmas eve,got up,opened presents and in bed ALL day xmas day,still don’t have an appetite yet but I try to eat a lil something bc I gota have food,lots of water too!

  4. drknowitall :) says:

    Too right Peter, to all the arseholes who feel they ‘NEED’ to go to work sick, KEEP your bugs to yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!
    stay home recover and then do your work!!!
    From one sick pissed off puppy!

  5. I have this awful thing now. 6 hours of empty stomach dry heaves and off to the ER. My wife says that I was delirious and whimpering and that she hasn’t seen me that sick in all of our 23 years together. Admittedly I have never felt worse. Where did I get it you ask? I’m a Campus Cop at a College. Cesspool of bacteria.

  6. Jeff Level says:

    Had it! Hated it!

  7. Renona Holliman says:

    I work in a restaurant, and if this is the bug that made me sick. It stinks with a capital S. It causes the lose watery stool, throwing up and the nausa with it. It produces body aches along with a bad head ache were u can barley move your head with out throwing up. The one thing I did realize with this is it messes with castro area. I went to the ER and they said I had bad gas… Never once ran though their head that I might have a stomach virus. Which ticks me off. That’s why they call it tragic mountain were I live.

  8. Roberta Pullen says:

    I just had a horrible bout with this that kept me awake all night with diarrhea and the most horrible stomach cramps i have had in a very long time. nothing helped the stomach cramps, i took an ultram and hot packs to try to ease the pain. God, this is a horrible bug!!!!

  9. I had this and it’s been over one week. Still have dizzy spells and vision not great yet. Are these symptoms of the norovirus?

  10. Christopher Hancock says:

    Close family vomiting, and now I got it and feel like a sloppy drunk past out under the toilet bowl. Last time I did this was on the Monterrey bay

  11. I had to go to the ER.. it was bad.

  12. For those of you who are curious about flu transmission on the family pet, check out this related post: Can Dogs and Cats Carry Viruses Around the House? http://www.decodedscience.com/flu-virus-transmission-can-dogs-and-cats-carry-influenza-around-the-house/25506

  13. Yes it can live on your pet. =( And it wreaks havoc!

  14. Michael Zollner says:

    ya the lady who I was doing work for said her husband was sick, then on the second day there I got sick with this virus. glad to report more going out the back end than the front end and to say that that only lasted 48 hours, only. what an idiot to tell me after the fact i could hardly walk for three days and thought that on the first night i was going to have to call 911 but with what insurance this is a dangerous flu man the sickest i have ever been all to make a couple of hundred dollars painting what ever happened to our economy?

  15. sharonrowell says:

    This is the worst virus I’ve been sick for three days so weak,coming out of both ends and my six year old grandbaby had it really bad the entire week of spring break,this really sucks ,i do not recall ever being this sick ever……..

    • it’s horrible. My 11 year old daughter was so sick for 4 days and is still weak. She lost 10lbs which is 10% of her body weight. Poor baby. One ER visit, one Doctors visit and a week of TLC later she is finally on the mend. This was a doozy

  16. ashley stark says:

    I need your help, and fast. please email me asap. my email adress is listed below
    ashleylovestark@gmail.com
    I’m scared that I may be very ill, and I need a doctors advice.
    I’m very eager to hear back from you. Thank you.

  17. Have had this bad bug since Good Friday. This is a very fast acting virus. I don’t know where I got it from just about anywhere I guess. Never had anything like this. Had to go to the doctor was given medicine for the violet vomiting, they really work too. The vomiting and the other has stopped, but stomach is pretty messed up and no energry. Went back to the doctor she suggested gatorade to put electroytes and carbs back in the boby from all the vomiting and stick to a bland diet. Hopefully will be back at work on Monday. If you get this virus do not take it lightly.

  18. kristinal says:

    Parents, especially if you have small children, please take your children to the hospital if they become dehydrated. Here are some of the symptoms:

    Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:
    Dry, sticky mouth
    Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
    Thirst
    Decreased urine output — no wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens
    Few or no tears when crying
    Dry skin
    Headache
    Constipation
    Dizziness or lightheadedness

    Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:
    Extreme thirst
    Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
    Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
    Lack of sweating
    Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber
    Sunken eyes
    Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched into a fold

    In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head
    Low blood pressure
    Rapid heartbeat
    Rapid breathing
    No tears when crying
    Fever

    I don’t want to scare anybody, but if you’re reading this article and contemplating, you probably need to take them to an experienced doctor or hospital ASAP. If you take them to a pediatrician make sure you have a pediatrician that listens and you’re confident that they are giving you sound advice. Remember, doctors are human, they are not God. If you can’t see a doctor because it’s after hours or the weekend, take them to the ER. Please make sure they take small sips of pedialyte, if they can’t hold down the liquids and have diarrhea, don’t wait for the doctor to call, PLEASE go straight to the hospital. If they get worse, don’t wait for the doctor to call you back. A good pediatric doctor knows the seriousness of dehydration and will tell you to go to the ER. A lazy doctor will call in a medication. Medication, like phenergan suppositories or liquid , will not help dehydration, especially if there is a problem with holding down water and your child has diarrhea.

  19. I believe this is what my husband has had for the past two weeks! And my 11 month old daughter recently just picked it up as well and now my sister, who was visiting for Spring Break, left with the virus. Luckily, I have not gotten it (yet!) and don’t really look forward to contracting it because I have a 3 week old son and I take care of my babies throughout the day.

  20. Went to bed fine on Thursday night…woke up 3 hours later puking and having severe cramping. Threw up 12 times in 10 hours. Diarrehea was literally water. I had to wear a pad it was so bad. I really have never ever in my 37 years been this sick. That was the worse. I do think it is a 24 hour thing. It is Sat morning at 9am and although my stomach is still rumbling and I still have diarrehea, I havent had to puke since 6pm last night. I can’t watch any commericals with food in them-It makes my stomache churn. This really was bad. Now I need to try and find some energy to clean with bleach-have only eaten grapes and jello. Eating was a chore in itself. Food is the last thing you want.

    • Same here.. Fine Monday.. by 4 am Tues throwing up and severe diarrhea all day Tues, throwing up over at 5pm.. now it is Sunday and I still have diarrhea although feeling a little better, nasty bug..

  21. This thing works fast. First at about four am this morning I started gettin sick from every end. At seven am the school called my daughter didnt even make it off the bus..and about two this afternoon my husband started complaining his stomach….I hope we all get better ..man I just got a call that my daughters friend and all her siblings r sick…..

  22. My father was hit with this a few weeks ago along with his girlfriend. Although he didn’t throw up at all his girlfriend was a huge mess with about a full night and days worth of being stuck in the bathroom. Now my mom got hit with this on St. Patrick’s Day eve and just threw up twice in the past 6 hours. Here’s to hoping I nor my sister’s family get it, last thing I want is my 3 year old niece catching something this horrid

  23. It started Saturday at 2:00 am when I rushed to bathroom to vomit 4 times. Then it continued with going to bathroom. I lost count after the 40th time. I’m lethargic, dehydrated and have no energy.

  24. What will help the stomach cramps?

    • drknowitall :) says:

      feelin terrible since Wednesday arvo, within 5 hours cramps TERRIBLE!!!!!
      only thing I have found to help is valium, and gastrolyte, riding it, My darling POP once told me viruses need to be exposed to heat for approximately 15 minutes, hot bath, vicks rub on chest and feet, just ensure the body is able to sweat to expel these little prick bugs. Christmas in 5 days do NOT want to be crook, or spread this terrible feeling to those I love. Hope it helps
      may you get well SOON!!!

    • Kellee McCauley Holmes says:

      My Daughter had it yesterday, I bought her ginger ale which everyone usually does, but my Sister in law stopped by with some Ginger root, cut it up and made a ginger tea for her, and it seemed to ease up the cramps. Good luck, hope you feel better!

  25. My son has it and it is the nastiest thing I have ever seen he is so so sick

  26. I had one son hospitalized from dehydration from this and now my younger son has it. Can’t wait till the wife or I get it. My youngest vomited all over his face. It was that fast and he was sleeping on his back. Erupted like a volcano.

  27. victoria moore says:

    i’ve got the stupid flu now :( i have never felt worse

  28. goddess8281 says:

    I just caught it. And it does work fast. I feel like crap.

  29. My daughter had this nasty stomach flu since last week on Wednesday 2-13-13. She was vomiting, had a fever, chills, headache, and diarrhea. As of today, 1-18-2013, her diarrhea is slowly going away. But the thing is that, now I got the stomach flu. I have the chills, headache, muscle cramps, and diarrhea. This virus do spread fast and is very contagious.

  30. I got this a few days ago. Now my husband and son are suffering. I was at a crowded home and garden show & then out to dinner. The next thing I knew I was waking up from a sound sleep to make a bee line to the bathroom. It does hit fast. But I am glad that I read that only BLEACH will kill this virus.

  31. I have this nasty virus. Was hospitalized for dehydration. They are not kidding when they say the symptoms come on fast… I was sitting in class then 4 hours later I couldn’t leave the bathroom.
    I am pretty certain I picked this up at the daycare I work at.
    Stay healthy everyone.

    • Cheryl Woods says:

      It comes on SUPER fast! I woke up in the middle of the night and thought “wow, I’m not feeling so hot….I’m gonna…..” and barely made it to the toilet to throw up. I went to bed feeling fine, watched tv with my husband and 2-3 hours later I was vomiting, violently.

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