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Norovirus is a very contagious infection, which can lead to gastroenteritis. Most people recover in a few days, but in some people serious complications can develop. But there are things you can do to protect you and your family.

If you ever had the stomach flu, you know how miserable it can be. But what you may not know is that norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastrointestinal infection.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report norovirus affects about 20 million people in the United States each year. 

What Is Norovirus And How Is It Spread?

Understating what the virus is and how it is spread is essential in order to learn ways to prevent becoming infected. Norovirus is a very common and contagious virus which causes acute gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach or intestines.

It is important to understand norovirus is not just one virus. There are several strains of the virus, which can cause illness. If you are infected with one strain, you can still become infected with another at a later time. The virus is spread a few different ways. Eating or drinking food that is contaminated with the virus is one mode of transmission.

The virus can also live on surfaces for a few hours. If you touch a service that is contaminated with the virus, and you put your hands near your mouth, nose or eyes you can become infected. Sharing items, such as spoons, straws or drinking glasses can also lead to infection with the norovirus.

Norovirus Symptoms And Risk Factors

Only a small amount of the virus is needed in order to become sick. Anyone can become infected, and most people do at some point in their life. But there are additional factors, which may place a person at a higher risk of contracting the infection. People who have a weakened immune system due to taking certain medications or having certain diseases are at a greater risk getting norovirus. People with a decreased immune system may also be more likely to develop complications from the infection. 

The virus often spreads quickly in places when people are living in close quarters.

Outbreaks in schools, nursing homes and on cruise ships are common. People who live in parts of the world where food is prepared in unsanitary conditions are at a much higher risk of contracting norovirus. If you live with young children who attend daycare, you also have upped your odds of becoming infected with norovirus.

If you do contract norovirus, symptoms usually start within a day or two of becoming infected with the virus. Symptoms can come on suddenly and may vary in severity. The most common symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Stomach cramps, muscle pain, fatigue and low-grade fever also develop in some people. 

Although the duration of the illness can vary, most people are sick for about one to three days. Norovirus can hit anyone hard, but it tends to be more serious in the elderly or young children. Everyone affected with the virus, should pay close attention to preventing the spread of the infection. Keep in mind, you may still be contagious and able to pass the infection on to others up to three or four days after recovery.

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