It’s confirmed. The recent sickness that prematurely ended the Royal Caribbean cruise two weeks ago was the norovirus. Last week there was another cruise ship (this one operated by Princess Cruise) that also ended early due to a widespread stomach sickness…possibly the norovirus.
While all the buzz is about the norovirus on cruise ships, it’s actually the MOST common gastrointestinal issue, effecting nearly 19-21 million people each year. Often it pops up in crowded environments such as nursing homes, cruise ships and, yes, day cares.
What is the norovirus?
In a nutshell, it is a highly contagious, stomach bug (acute gastroenteritis) with a short incubation period, which means if you’re infected you’ll know pretty quickly—going from completely healthy to feeling absolutely miserable in about a day.
Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. Generally, these symptoms are very bad for the first day or so. Other symptoms may include fever, headache and body aches.
Most of these aren’t serious symptoms, but diarrhea and vomiting can deplete your body of the fluid it needs and you can become dehydrated. Children and the elderly are most at risk for this health hazard. (See tips below on how to prevent dehydration.)
How do you get it?
People become infected when they consume something that’s been contaminated or when they touch an object or surface that has been infected with the virus and then touch their nose, mouth or eyes.
Four Facts About the Runs
- The vomiting usually doesn’t cause dehydration. The diarrhea does.
- No school with loose poo. Your child is contagious until his poop becomes solid again.
- Pee times three. How do you know if your child is getting dehydrated? Well, he should urinate at least 3 times in a 24-hour period. If he doesn’t, check in with his doc.
- Don’t offer anything to eat or drink while your child is puking…unless you want to see it again. It’s just asking for trouble to offer liquids or solids when your child’s stomach is unsettled. Wait for at least an hour of being vomit-free before offering small sips of clear fluids.
Like most disease prevention, if someone is infected, clean, clean, clean…every surface, towel, container, door handle, etc. Caring for one person in the household with norovirus is tough enough. If everyone catches it, well, it’s a downright nightmare.
Ari Brown, MD