Norovirus is on the rise so here is how to avoid the hyper-contagious stomach bug

Norovirus cases are spiking, especially in the northeast United States, but experts say the nasty stomach illness is easily preventable.

The latest data shows a sharp rise in the northeast, while other parts of the US are also seeing a steady increase in cases of the stomach bug.

Here is what you need to know about avoiding norovirus.

What are the symptoms of norovirus?

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of this stomach bug are diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

If you catch it, you might also experience a fever, headaches or body aches, although these are less common.

Symptoms will usually appear 12 to 48 hours after exposure and tend to clear up within one to three days.

Those with norovirus can be left severely dehydrated from vomiting or experiencing diarrhoea multiple times a day.

How does norovirus spread?

Norovirus could be passed to you if you eat food or drink liquids which are contaminated with the virus.

It could also come from touching objects with the bacteria on them and then putting your fingers in your mouth without washing your hands.

A person could also be infected by accidentally getting tiny particles of faeces or vomit in their mouth while caring for someone with the virus, the CDC says.

Someone with the illness can shed “billions of norovirus particles that you can’t see without a microscope”, the CDC added. Patients are at their most contagious a few days after feeling better.

Common places where the virus spreads include daycare centres, cruise ships and conventions.

How can you stop yourself from getting norovirus?

The main piece of advice from the CDC is to wash your hands often, especially after using the toilet or before eating, preparing or handling food.

Hand sanitiser doesn’t work well against the virus, so soap and water are the most effective way.

The CDC also recommends thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, cooking oysters and other shellfish to a temperature of 145F (62.7C) and to routinely clean and sanitise kitchen utensils, counters and surfaces.

Experts also say you should not prepare or handle food while you are sick, or care for others.

It’s also important to wash clothing, sheets or towels well, especially if they have vomit or faeces on them. Handling items with care is also essential, by using rubber gloves and avoiding shaking them.

Is there any medication for norovirus?

Unfortunately not.

The CDC recommends drinking plenty of fluids, to replace those lost in vomiting and diarrhoea. Oral rehydration fluids bought over the counter at a pharmacy may help the process along.

In children, signs of dehydration include crying with few or no tears, as well as being unusually fussy or sleepy.

Is the rise in norovirus cases unusual?

This latest rise isn’t necessarily unusual. Average case numbers for the past two years show a spike at the start of 2022 and 2023.

Numbers typically trail off again by April.