It is a member of the Caliciviridae family of viruses. These viruses are responsible for about 90% of viral gastroenteritis outbreaks and about 50% of cases worldwide. According to the statistical data obtained, norovirus causes gastroenteritis in 19-21 million people a year in the United States. It is also responsible for 56,000-71,000 annual hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths each year.
Noroviruses are constantly undergoing genetic changes, they have adapted to live in many environments and are resistant to many disinfectants. For this reason, it is accepted that people have had a norovirus infection more than once in their lifetime, although the symptoms are usually less severe each time.
Norovirus infection can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea that starts suddenly. It has a highly contagious property. Although there is also transmission through close contact with a person with a norovirus infection, it can be transmitted through contaminated water and/or food or contaminated surfaces.
What Are the Symptoms of Norovirus Infection?
The infection is characterized by diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting, which begins 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus and usually lasts from 1 to 3 days. Many of the infected patients recover without the need for treatment. Vomiting and diarrhea caused by infection in people with October illnesses, the elderly, young children and infants, pregnant women can cause severe fluid loss (dehydration). In this case, patients need to be followed up and treated in health centers.
Norovirus infection most often occurs in crowded environments where there is a lot of close contact, such as hospitals, kindergartens, nursing homes, schools, dormitories or barracks, and causes an epidemic.
The signs and symptoms of norovirus infection can start suddenly. Some of the common symptoms of norovirus infection can be listed as follows:
* Stomach pain or cramps
Some people may not show any signs or symptoms even though they are having a norovirus infection. But the infection is still contagious, and infected people can transmit the virus to others.
How is Norovirus Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of norovirus is usually made as a result of a good anamnesis and evaluation of symptoms. The presence of the virus can also be confirmed by testing a stool sample; in most cases, this test is not required.
What Are the Ways of Norovirus Transmission?
Norovirus is the biggest cause of diseases caused by contaminated (infected) food and can be transmitted to humans in many ways. Through close contact with a sick person, touching contaminated surfaces and then the mouth, or eating and drinking contaminated food or water, the virus can be ingested into the body. Sometimes some foods, including oysters and other seafood, can be naturally contaminated with norovirus. Part of the ways of transmission of norovirus are as follows:
* Eating contaminated food
* Drinking contaminated water
* Touching your mouth after contact with a contaminated surface or object
* Being in close contact with a person with a norovirus infection
What Are the Risk Factors for Norovirus Infection?
There are many risk factors for norovirus infection. The main of these are as follows:
• Having a weakened immune system (for example, people who have undergone organ transplants and people with HIV infection).
* Eating in a place where someone with a norovirus infection has touched food or where food has come into contact with contaminated water or surfaces.
* Being in kindergarten or childcare centers.
* Living in close contact environments such as nursing homes.
* Staying in hotels, resorts, cruise ships or in environments with a large number of people in the immediate vicinity.
* Being in close contact with someone who has a norovirus infection.
What Are the Complications Due to Norovirus Infection?
For most people, norovirus infection is not life-threatening and the discomfort usually goes away within a few days. But in some people, especially young children, elderly individuals, people with a weakened immune system or who have illnesses or are pregnant, norovirus infection can be severe. These cases can lead to severe dehydration and even loss of life.
Less commonly, the following complications may also occur:
* Symptoms of dehydration due to norovirus infection:
* Extreme exhaustion
* Dry mouth and throat
* Decreased urine output
* Tend to sleep
What is the Treatment for Norovirus Infection?
There is no specific treatment for norovirus gastroenteritis. Instead, preventing dehydration and controlling symptoms are the main goals of treatment. For the treatment of infection, the following may be recommended:
* Consume plenty of fluids
* Plenty of rest
* Eating light foods
Patients may be advised to follow a light diet consisting of foods that are easy to digest. Making sure that people replace the fluid they lose through vomiting or diarrhea is the most important element in treatment and follow-up.
If fluid loss cannot be met, the development of dehydration can be sudden and can be life-threatening for some people. People who cannot get enough fluids and have dehydration may need to get the necessary fluids intravenously (intravenously) in health centers.
How is the Course of Norovirus Infection?
Most people with a norovirus infection feel better after 2 or 3 days without long-term effects. The virus can be found in feces both before the onset of symptoms and up to 2 weeks after the end of the symptoms. Since norovirus contains many different types of viruses and can undergo genetic mutations, there is a possibility that a person will contract the disease more than once during his lifetime.
How to Prevent Norovirus Infection?
Norovirus infection is highly contagious. To prevent the development of infection, it may be recommended:
* After using the toilet or after changing the diaper, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
* Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating or drinking food.
* Avoiding contaminated food and water, including food that may have been prepared by a sick person.
* Washing fruits and vegetables before eating.
* Cooking seafood thoroughly.
* Disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated.
• Be careful when traveling. If traveling to areas where the risk of norovirus infection is high, it is recommended to eat only cooked food, avoid eating raw, unwashed food, drink only hot drinks, and avoid food sold by street vendors.
To prevent the transmission of norovirus infection to other people during the illness and after the symptoms have ended, the following can be done:
* Avoid contact with others as much as possible.
* Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water.
* To ensure the isolation of their own and sick family members at home
* Avoid touching food and items that will be used by others.
* Disinfect contaminated surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaner or with a disinfectant effective against noroviruses.
* Careful disposal of vomit and feces. Wearing disposable gloves, clean the material as soon as possible with disposable towels, put dirty items in plastic bags and throw them away. Washing clothes and sheets that may be contaminated separately from others at a temperature of at least 60 degrees.
* Avoid traveling until 2 to 3 days after the symptoms have passed.
If diarrhea lasts more than 2 days in an adult or more than 24 hours in a baby, symptoms of dehydration have begun to appear, high fever has occurred, severe abdominal pain, or bloody or black diarrhea is present, it is definitely recommended to contact a health center.