Here's How Long You're Contagious After Getting Norovirus

With cases of the highly contagious stomach flu, norovirus, rising across the country, you might be wondering about this infection all over again (and we say all over again because last year also saw an increase in norovirus cases in the U.S. around the same time).  

"November to April is when norovirus is most common, but it can technically occur any time of year," shared family physician Dr. Joanna Turner Bisgrove (via American Medical Association). "It has everything to do with more people are inside and more people are sharing utensils, but it can be all year." Speaking of utensils, the stomach bug is commonly spread via food or water prepared by someone who has the virus. Apart from direct contamination of food and drink, the infection can also spread through close association with a person who has norovirus or touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, fever, and muscle pain, and can set in within a day or two of being exposed.

You become contagious as soon as you start to feel sick and remain contagious for three days after symptoms go away. Some might even be contagious for 14 days after recovery. Also, you can pass the virus in your stool for many weeks after you've recovered and for some people with underlying health concerns, this can last months. However, you don't become long-term carriers of the virus just because you got the infection. There is currently no vaccine for norovirus.

What to do when you're contagious with norovirus

There is also no specific treatment for norovirus, except managing symptoms as you would with the flu.

Once you have the virus, dehydration becomes a serious concern, so replenishing with electrolytes and fluids is key. It is also important to watch out for severe dehydration symptoms like fatigue, dry mouth and throat, decreased urine output, listlessness, and dizziness. Smaller children, elderly people, and people with other health conditions could be particularly impacted by dehydration and even require urgent medical attention. As for other things you can do, getting plenty of rest and consuming soft foods that won't irritate your stomach make up the list.  

Since closed and crowded environments like schools, hospitals, and childcare centers are prime environments for the spread of norovirus, living, studying, eating, and playing in close quarters with others become obvious risk factors. If you notice symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea in your child, don't send them to school or daycare. If you work in a hospital, food establishment, or nursing home setting, you should stay home from work for at least 2-3 days after you've recovered. Preventing norovirus in children and adults is about practicing proper hand-washing habits, rinsing fruits and vegetables well, and avoiding consuming food prepared by someone with an infection. Fish and shellfish can accumulate the virus in their systems simply because they exist in contaminated water. Cooking seafood thoroughly can help mitigate risks too.