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Norovirus (cont.)

When Should People Seek Medical Care for a Norovirus Infection?

In most cases of norovirus infection, medical care is not necessary as the infection resolves on its own without specific treatment. However, if replacement fluids cannot be or are not taken orally to keep a person hydrated, medical care should be sought. This inability to rehydrate is more often seen in infants, young children, the elderly, and in immunosuppressed people. Increased lethargy, decreased fluid intake, and decreased urination (signs of dehydration) often are indications medical care should be obtained. Patients with extensive vomiting may be at a high risk for dehydration or esophageal damage; these patients should also seek medical care.

What Exams and Tests Do Health-Care Professionals Use to Diagnose a Norovirus Infection?

Most state laboratories in the U.S. have a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) that is very sensitive and specific for detecting the genetic material of norovirus. Stool, vomit, and environmental swabs can be used as samples for this test. Other diagnostic tests have been used for norovirus infection (for example, electron microscopy, serum antibody increases, and ELISA), but these tests are done infrequently and often are less sensitive and specific than RT-PCR. Testing outbreaks for norovirus is important because such testing can rule out diseases with similar symptoms (for example, diseases caused by rotavirus, Vibrio, Escherichia, and other organisms).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/7/2016

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