Norovirus in US : Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Subarna Debbarma (BPT, DNHE)

According to CDC data, norovirus leads to approximately 19 to 21 million illnesses each year in the US, with the peak incidence usually seen between November and April. Annually, it results in roughly 109,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths, predominantly impacting older adults.

As per CDC data reported by The Hill, the three-week average of positive norovirus tests in the region has surged to 13.9% in recent weeks and has consistently stayed above a 10% positive rate since mid-December 2023.

Norovirus in US

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus, often dubbed the "winter vomiting bug," is a highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis, leading to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea. This virus is notorious for its ability to spread rapidly, especially in closed environments such as schools, cruise ships, and nursing homes.

Symptoms of Norovirus:

The symptoms of norovirus infection typically manifest within 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus. They include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Low-grade fever
  • Body aches

While norovirus illness is usually mild and resolves within a few days, it can be severe, particularly in vulnerable populations such as young children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Dehydration is a common complication, especially if vomiting and diarrhea are persistent.

Transmission of Norovirus:

Norovirus spreads primarily through the fecal-oral route, meaning that it can be contracted by ingesting contaminated food or water, touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one's mouth, or through close contact with an infected person. The virus can remain viable on surfaces for days to weeks, making it highly contagious and difficult to eradicate.


Preventing norovirus infection involves practicing good hygiene and sanitation measures:
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before handling food.
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces with a bleach-based cleaner.
  • Avoid preparing food for others while experiencing symptoms of norovirus infection.
  • Practice proper food handling and storage to prevent foodborne contamination.


There is no specific antiviral medication for norovirus, nor is there a vaccine available. Treatment typically focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing dehydration. This may include:
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, oral rehydration solutions, or electrolyte drinks, to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Resting and avoiding strenuous activities.
  • Taking over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms such as fever, nausea, and diarrhea.

In severe cases of dehydration or complications, medical attention may be necessary, particularly for young children, older adults, or individuals with underlying health conditions.

Remember, norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can cause gastroenteritis, leading to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Practicing good hygiene, sanitation, and food safety measures can help prevent its spread. While there is no specific treatment, managing symptoms and preventing dehydration are key aspects of care for those affected by norovirus infection.

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