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What is Norovirus?

Context:

At least two cases of norovirus have been found in Thiruvananthapuram among lower primary school students.

Relevance:

GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is norovirus?
  2. What are the symptoms?
  3. What precautions can one take?
  4. Treatment

What is norovirus?

  • Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that is also sometimes referred to as the ‘stomach flu’ or the ‘ winter vomiting bug’.
  • It can be transmitted through contaminated food, water, and surfaces.
  • The primary route is oral-faecal.
  • It is similar to diarrhoea-inducing rotavirus and infects people across age groups.
  • Disease outbreaks typically occur aboard cruise ships, in nursing homes, dormitories, and other closed spaces.
  • According to the WHO, emerging evidence suggests that “norovirus infection is associated with intestinal inflammation, malnutrition and may cause long-term morbidity”.
  • It adds that an estimated 685 million cases of norovirus are seen annually, including 200 million cases amongst children under 5

What are the symptoms?

  • The initial symptoms of norovirus are vomiting and/or diarrhoea, which show up one or two days after exposure to the virus.
  • Patients also feel nauseous, and suffer from abdominal pain, fever, headaches and body aches.
  • In extreme cases, loss of fluids could lead to dehydration.

What precautions can one take?

  • One may get infected multiple times as the virus has different strains.
  • Norovirus is resistant to many disinfectants and can withstand heat up to 60°C.
  • Therefore, merely steaming food or chlorinating water does not kill the virus. The virus can also survive many common hand sanitisers.
  • The basic precaution is also the most obvious — repeatedly washing hands with soap after using the lavatory or changing diapers.
  • It is important to wash hands carefully before eating or preparing food.

Treatment:

  • The disease is self-limiting. The infection, even though it takes a lot out of the patient, normally lasts only two or three days, and most individuals who are not very young, very old, or malnourished can ride it out with sufficient rest and hydration.
  • Diagnosis is done by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.
  • No vaccines are available for the disease.
  • It is important to maintain hydration in the acute phase. In extreme cases, patients have to be administered rehydration fluids intravenously.

-Source: Indian Express


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