Norwalk Virus Infection
Noroviruses are a group of viruses (Norwalk) that causes an infection of the stomach and intestines, also called viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu, although the disease is not caused by influenza virus. Norwalk virus or norovirus, often appears in epidemics in cruse ships (when they are affected more then 2% of total passengers). Manifestations of the virus infection can be unpleasant, symptoms including stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes fever and chills or headache and muscles pain. This infections were most frequently in communities, nurseries, schools, cruise ships, camps, hostels, restaurants and other places where groups can gather.
Ways of transmission
The virus is present in the feces and vomit of infected people. The means by which a person can become infected are:
- Direct contact with another infected person with symptoms;
- Consumption of food or drinks contaminated with the virus. Food can be contagious trough the handling of the persons who are infected with norovirus, especially if you do not keep a proper hygiene ( hands should be washed before they rich the food);
- Achieving contaminated surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and placing fingers in mouth;
Norovirus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly. Like the common cold, norovirus has different strains, which makes it difficult for a person’s body to develop lasting immunity. Therefore, norovirus infection can recur several times during a person’s life. In addition, some people are more likely to become infected and develop more sever illness due to genetic susceptibility factors.
Anyone can become ill with norovirus because the disease is highly contagious. Most people will recover without any complication. Symptoms of Norwalk virus infection may be more serious in infants, young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune system.
Norwalk virus symptoms usually starts after 24-48 hours after exposure to the virus, but can occur even 12 hours after ingestion. Infected people are contagious from the moment the first symptom manifests until at least 3 days after recovery ( the period of contagion may be extended up to two weeks). Therefore it is very important to follow simple hygiene rules even after the recovery period.
In the first three days symptoms of norwalk virus infection are:
- Watery diarrhea.
Other symptoms include fever, headache, stomachache, abdominal cramps. Generally, the disease dose not become worse and hospitalization is not necessary. Typically, recovery takes 2-3 days without long effects of health. Dehydration is the most common complication, especially among children and elderly. If diarrhea contains blood, accompanied by high fever or symptoms lasting more the 72 hours, could be involved another virus than norovirus.
Infection control measure
Prevention of outbreaks of infection in communities, depends on maintaining a good hygiene level at the staff who handle food. Those who have symptoms of nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, should be removed from the workplace and return 48 hours after these symptoms disappear
Healthcare professionals caring for patients suffering with norovirus, must wear gown and glows. Special attention will be given to washing hands with soap. Handling patient trough the hospital should be minimized.
Doctor will diagnose the disease based on symptoms, which will improve after 2-3 days of onset. However, in certain circumstances may be necessary fecal analyze.
Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent Norwalk virus. And because the disease is triggered by virus, antibiotics are ineffective. Serious cases are rare and associated with dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Maintaining an adequate intake of fluids to fill the needs of your organism, lost from vomiting or diarrhea is very important.