Norovirus: The Winter Vomiting Bug

The “Winter Vomiting Bug” is going around. If you have been having episodes of vomiting or diarrhea, chances are it is related to Norovirus. It is one of the leading causes of vomiting and diarrhea in the U.S. and is the most common cause of epidemic gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”) worldwide.  When you hear about a cruise being canceled because of vomiting and diarrhea, there is an excellent chance it is from an outbreak of Norovirus. Chipotle, the Mexican Fast Food Chain, has firsthand experienced the difficulties posed by this easily spread virus, having been hurt by several Norovirus outbreaks in their restaurants.young african nurse comforting female patient

Norovirus is highly contagious and easily transmitted through close contact with someone who is infected or from contaminated food or water. Symptoms typically appear 12-48 hours after being exposed, though not everyone who is exposed will be infected or show symptoms. Some people who do not show symptoms may still be contagious. Symptoms usually seen with a Norovirus infection include watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and cramping. Other common symptoms may include body aches, low-grade fevers, and headaches. Although symptoms usually last only 1-2 days, the vomiting and diarrhea can become severe enough to lead to complications such as dehydration or electrolyte abnormalities.

Red flag symptoms which could mean that what you are experiencing may not be a routine case of Norovirus and should prompt you to seek medical attention immediately include: dizziness, feeling faint or that you are going to pass out, abdominal pain, blood in your stool or vomit, high fever, and/or symptoms that last more than 2 days.

Treatment for Norovirus can include aggressive rehydration (including IV fluids), checking for and correcting electrolyte disturbances, anti-diarrheal medications (prescription or over-the-counter), and anti-nausea medications. Your local Piedmont Urgent Care by WellStreet has the staff and resources to make sure that the Winter Vomiting Bug doesn’t bite too hard.

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