Norovirus 101

Dr. Stan Spinner.

Expert: Dr. Stan Spinner, Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care Chief Medical Officer


Q: What is norovirus?

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes acute gastroenteritis. Following introduction of rotavirus vaccination, norovirus has become the most common cause of gastroenteritis in adults and children. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. It happens when a person’s stomach and intestines get infected with a virus. Both adults and children can get viral gastroenteritis. Anyone can get infected with norovirus and become sick.

Q: How do kids contract it?

Your child can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting vomit or stool from infected people in his mouth. While that may sound weird, this usually happens by consuming contaminated food or drink, touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then putting fingers in the mouth or having contact with someone infected with norovirus. Typically, norovirus outbreaks happen when infected people spread the virus to others. Outbreaks can occur in numerous institutional settings including schools, child care centers and colleges, because it lives on surfaces and is resistant to many common disinfectants.

Q: What are the symptoms of norovirus?

The most common symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, throwing up, nausea and stomach pain. Other symptoms can include fever, headache and body aches. These symptoms usually appear within 12 to 48 hours of being exposed to norovirus. For most people, norovirus illness is not serious, and they get better in one to three days. A person may become extremely ill and throw up or experience diarrhea multiple times a day, which can lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include decreased urination, dry mouth and throat and feeling dizzy when standing up. Young children who are dehydrated may cry with fewer tears and usually are sleepy and fussy.

Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. Photo by A. Kramer.

Q: How do you treat norovirus?

Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine to treat people infected with the norovirus illness. Norovirus cannot be treated with antibiotics, because it is a viral – not bacterial – infection. If your child has the norovirus illness, have him drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from throwing up and diarrhea to help prevent dehydration.

Q: What is the best way to prevent norovirus?

These tips will help protect you and your child from norovirus.
• Always wash your hands with soap and water before eating, preparing or handling food and especially after changing diapers or using the restroom.
• Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly before preparing or consuming them.
• Do not prepare foods or care for others when you are sick and for at least two days after symptoms stop.
• Immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. You should handle soiled items carefully by wearing gloves and washing your hands after.
• Clean and disinfect any surfaces thought to be contaminated.

For more information about Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, visit westcampus.texaschildrens.org or call 832-227-1000.