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Norovirus Infection

Norovirus Infection Overview

Patient Comments

Norovirus infection causes a person to develop a rapid onset of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasionally stomach cramping (all symptoms of gastroenteritis). In addition, the person may feel tired, have muscle aches, headache, and a low-grade fever (less than 101 F) with chills. The symptoms last about one to two days. Although no long-term problems persist or develop with this viral infection, dehydration (loss of body water) may be significant enough to require medical treatment.

Norovirus was probably first noticed by Dr. J. Zahorsky in 1929 and termed "winter vomiting disease." In 1968 in Norwalk, Ohio, there was an outbreak of gastroenteritis thought to be caused by a virus. The virus was termed the Norwalk agent (also termed particle or virus). It was classified as a "small round virus" and later, after genetic studies, classified as a member of the family Caliciviridae, with a single strand of RNA for its genome. The name of the genus, Norovirus, was approved in 2002 by an international committee.

Researchers suggest that norovirus is responsible for about 50% of all outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the U.S. and about 90% of epidemic nonbacterial gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide. Most outbreaks or epidemics occur in places where people come together in close contact (for example, dorms, hospitals, prisons, cruise ships, schools, and nursing homes). Norovirus infections are transmitted person to person, by contaminated food and water, and by contaminated surfaces.

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