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What is the norovirus?

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Quick Answer

The norovirus is a contagious virus that causes stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be transmitted through an infected person, contaminated surfaces or contaminated food or water. Norovirus is most serious in young children and older adults. The CDC estimates that each year norovirus causes 19 to 21 million illnesses and leads to over 50,000 hospitalizations in the United States.

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Washing hands after using the toilet and before preparing food can help to prevent the transmission of norovirus, according to CDC. Because the virus can live in the stool before symptoms emerge, as well as up to two weeks after the illness passes, it is important to practice proper hygiene to prevent its spread. Disinfecting contaminated surfaces and washing clothes thoroughly can also prevent transmission. There is no specific treatment for norovirus outside of getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids.

Norovirus is commonly called "stomach flu" or "food poisoning" by many, according to the CDC. While food poisoning can be caused by norovirus, there are also many other chemicals and germs that cause food poisoning. Norovirus is not a flu either, as this term specifically refers to a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.

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