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What is Norovirus? Symptoms, transmission, precautions you should know

Last updated: January 24, 2023, 7:48 PM IST

(representative image: Reuters)

(representative image: Reuters)

Norovirus is a viral disease that is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting

Two cases of infection with norovirus, a cause of acute gastroenteritis, were reported in Kerala on Monday. The students of class 1 and 2 of a school in Kakkanad near Kochi have been found infected and three children are now being treated, the state government reports.

A senior district medical official said 62 students and a few parents from the school showed symptoms, after which two samples were sent for testing at the State Public Laboratory.

“The health of the children is stable. The health department staff inspected the school which is now temporarily closed. We hold online awareness sessions for children and parents. The classrooms and the toilets have now been disinfected,” the district doctor said in a statement, PTI reported.

The health ministry said precautions have been taken as the virus spreads through contaminated water and food.

The department said the disease is “highly contagious” and urged people to maintain hygiene.

Last year, two children were found infected with the same virus at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram.

WHAT IS NOROVIRUS?

The norovirus is a highly contagious virus that is also called the ‘stomach flu’ or the ‘winter puke virus’. It can be transmitted through contaminated food, water and surfaces.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), norovirus is a viral disease that is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Norovirus illnesses and outbreaks tend to be more common in the colder winter months. Although it can affect all age groups, the virus will usually not cause any adverse effects in healthy individuals, while it can be serious for children, the elderly and people with other illnesses.

According to the WHO, an estimated 685 million cases of norovirus are seen each year, including 200 million cases in children under the age of five. Norovirus causes an estimated 200,000 deaths per year, including 50,000 child deaths, mostly in low-income countries.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOROVIRUS?

Norovirus can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, headache and body aches. Patients may also feel nauseated and experience abdominal pain, fever, headache, and body aches.

In extreme cases, fluid loss occurs and can lead to dehydration, according to the Kerala Health Department.

PRECAUTIONS AND TREATMENT FOR NOROVIRUS

Norovirus is resistant to many disinfectants and can withstand heat up to 60°C. Therefore, simply steaming food or chlorinating water will not kill the virus. The virus also survives many common hand sanitizers.

It is important to repeatedly wash hands carefully after using the toilet or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that those infected should avoid contact with others and avoid preparing food for others.

Norovirus infection can be self-limiting. The infection, while demanding on the patient, normally only lasts two or three days, and most people who are not very young, very old, or malnourished can heal with adequate rest and hydration.

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