What is norovirus?

Norovirus is the name given to a group of viruses that cause an intense gastrointestinal illness. The symptoms of norovirus infection usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people also have low-grade fever, chills, headache and a general sense of tiredness.

How do people become infected with noroviruses?

Norovirus infections are extremely contagious. People can become infected in several ways including:

  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then touching their mouths or eating
  • having direct contact with other people who are infected, or who have recently had norovirus infection
How long does the illness last and how long are people contagious?

The acute symptoms of norovirus infection last one to three days in most people. People infected with norovirus become contagious when they develop symptoms. They continue to be contagious for at least three days after all their symptoms disappear.

What treatment is available for people with norovirus infection?

Since norovirus is a viral illness, it cannot be treated with antibiotics, as antibiotics are only effective usually against bacterial illnesses. Currently there is no antiviral medication that works against norovirus. Because dehydration from loss of fluids through vomiting and diarrhea is the most serious health effect resulting from norovirus, treatment includes drinking plenty of clear fluids to prevent dehydration. Although it is not usually necessary for people to see a health care provider, they should call to discuss their symptoms and how best to manage them. People who experience dizziness or lightheadedness while standing should definitely contact a health care provider.

How can you avoid catching or spreading norovirus?

To avoid spreading: It's advisable to stay away from places where people gather (e.g., classes, dining hall) and to be extremely careful about handwashing, especially after using the bathroom. Remember, these precautions should be taken not only while you have acute symptoms, but for at least three days after your symptoms disappear. You may return to your normal activities once you no longer have symptoms. Health care workers and food handlers should NOT return to work for 72 hours after symptoms have resolved.

To avoid catching: WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY, especially after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food; use soap and water or antiseptic hand cleaners; don't share glasses, plates or cooking utensils; avoid using any toilet or sink marked as closed in the residence hall.

What should you do if you develop symptoms?

Resident and commuter students who develop symptoms should contact the Health Center (617-521-1020) during business hours, or Simmons Public Safety (617-521-1112) when the Health Center is closed to report illness and for advice.

Faculty and staff who develop symptoms should contact their manager. If you are sick in a bathroom on campus, please contact Public Safety (617-521-1112) who will arrange to have the bathroom cleaned. Contact your healthcare provider if you think you are becoming dehydrated or have any other concern.