Student Health Service reports many cases of suspected norovirus infections
The University of St. Thomas Student Health Service and the Minnesota Department of Health both report increases in suspected norovirus infections. This infection often is mistakenly referred to as the “stomach flu." It is not related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus.
Noroviruses are members of a group of viruses called caliciviruses, also known previously as “Norwalk-like viruses.” Norovirus infection causes gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestines.
Norovirus disease is usually not serious, although people may feel very sick and vomit many times a day. Most people get better within one or two days, and they have no long-term health effects related to their illness; however, sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replace the liquids they lost because of vomiting and diarrhea. These people can become dehydrated and may need special medical attention. This problem with dehydration is usually only seen among the very young, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. There is no evidence to suggest that an infected person can become a long-term carrier of norovirus.
Common symptoms include:
- abdominal cramps
Other symptoms may include:
- muscle aches
Symptoms usually last one or two days; however, during that brief period, people can feel very ill and vomit, often violently and without warning, many times a day.
- Symptoms usually begin 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, but can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure.
- There is no evidence that sick people can become long-term carriers of the virus, but the virus can be in the stool and vomit of infected persons, from the day they start to feel ill to as long as two weeks after they feel better.
- Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
- touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth or eating before washing their hands
- having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill)
- eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus by foodhandlers who have not washed their hands adequately
Minimizing your risk
- Wash hands after using the bathroom and changing diapers, and before handling or eating any food.
- Wash hands before preparing food for yourself or others.
- Make sure that people with diarrhea, especially children, wash their hands carefully and frequently with soap to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
- Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact Student Health Service at (651) 962-6750.