Norovirus

NorovirusOver the past few weeks the news media has been paying more attention to Norovirus and many of our patients and their parents have questions about this infection.  Some people fear that this is a new or very dangerous infection in light of all of the media attention.  Perhaps a review of this common infection will help alleviate some of those fears.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (the “stomach bug”) in our country.  The Centers forDisease Control estimate that it cause 19-21 million cases of illness each year.  It has been around for many years and everyone has likely had it at one time or another.

The main symptoms of Norovirus are exactly what you would expect with a “stomach bug” including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  These symptoms typically last 12-48 hours and will resolve on their own without specific treatment.  As with any gastrointestinal infection, the primary risk of Norovirus infection is dehydration due to fluid loss combined with inadequate fluid intake.  The best way to prevent this complication is to give small amounts of fluid frequently.  Children with Norovirus symptoms should be watched for signs of dehydration including inadequate urine production and dry mouth.

New strains of Norovirus are relatively common and have developed in 2002, 2006 and most recently in 2012.  In the months after a new strain is identified, there are typically more cases of Norovirus than is usual.  The new strain that surfaced in 2012 is likely the reason that there seem to be more cases of Norovirus surfacing in our country now.

Once a person has had a particular strain of Norovirus, he usually develops immunity to that particular strain.  This typically prevents cyclic infection in families.  When a new strain surfaces, however, the protection that comes from prior infection with other strains is not typically helpful.

The best way to prevent Norovirus is diligent hand washing especially before eating and after using the restroom or changing diapers.  

If you are concerned that your child may have Norovirus, feel free to call us at 901.683.9371.