Got nausea, fatigue, stomach pain? Here's how to screen yourself for norovirus

Feb 17 2023, 7:20 pm

Norovirus, a stomach bug that can make you very ill, is affecting more and more people in Canada, and it’s time to keep an eye on possible infection symptoms you or your loved ones might be experiencing.

Since there’s no prescription treatment for it, Health Canada has a bunch of tips on protecting yourself from the virus, defending your body against its effects, and keeping people around you safe.

These tips are not an alternative to a doctor’s visit or advice, but they’ll help prepare you for the season. Infections are most common in fall and winter.

What symptoms should I look out for?

Symptoms can arise just 12 hours after exposure. If you’ve been experiencing any nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, or diarrhea, monitor yourself and contact your doctor. Other symptoms include chills, headaches, muscle pain, low-grade fever, and fatigue.

Your doctor should be able to test you using a stool or vomit sample.

Since vomiting and diarrhea can deplete your hydration levels, people diagnosed with the virus are highly advised to drink lots of water. In more severe cases, patients might also need to get an IV at a hospital.

How does norovirus spread?

Norovirus spreads through the vomit and stool of infected people and even recently recovered ones. Sharing utensils or food with an infected individual, eating food prepared by an infected person, or caring for someone who has the virus (including cleaning their vomit or excrement) can quickly leave you infected, too.

Aside from direct contact with others, contaminated sewage water is also a vector for the disease.

“[Norovirus] spreads very easily and quickly from person to person,” says Health Canada. “It only takes a few virus particles to make someone sick.”

Some people still have traces of the virus up to three weeks after recovery, but the most infectious period of the illness is while symptoms are most pronounced, until three days after recovery.

Outbreaks commonly occur in schools, hospitals, cruise ships, nursing homes, passenger trains, childcare facilities, and food service settings.

Am I at risk of severe illness?

Norovirus can infect anyone, but if you are pregnant, elderly, or have a weakened immune system, you are likelier to experience a severe case. Young children are also more prone to serious illness, so keep an eye on the little ones.

While there is no prescription medication to treat norovirus infections, Health Canada says most people begin to feel better on their own within two or three days. The illness generally does not leave long-term health effects, but you can get infected more than once.

How do I protect myself from norovirus?

Hand hygiene is key. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before touching your mouth or eating and drinking possibly contaminated foods and beverages.

This can be hard to do since you can’t tell from taste, looks, or smell if something has been contaminated with the virus. But since it’s better to be safe than sorry, wash your hands with soap and water any time you handle or eat food, change diapers or use the washroom, or clean up after someone who has been infected.

Immediately wash clothing and linens soiled with diarrhea or vomit. Ensure you wash your fruits, veggies, and shellfish (especially oysters and clams) very thoroughly in running water before you consume them.

Boil your drinking water or buy treated drinking water for safe hydration, and follow general food safety practices. If you’re travelling, be careful — you want to make sure your drinking water is safe. The safer bet is to just buy well-reputed mineral water from a store if you’re on the go or travelling.

Avoid socializing until you feel well again, and don’t be a caretaker for someone else until at least three days have passed since your recovery.

Stay safe out there!

National Trending StaffNational Trending Staff

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