What is norovirus and how to avoid it this winter

Also known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus is an extremely contagious stomach infection. Here’s all you need to know about it. 

Norovirus symptoms

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps are the usual symptoms of norovirus. Those affected may also have a low-grade fever, muscle aches, chills, headaches and tiredness. 

How long does it last?

It’s a short illness, usually lasting 24-48 hours from when symptoms begin. 

How do I catch it?

Norovirus is very contagious. It’s spread by eating food or drink contaminated with the virus, or touching contaminated surfaces or objects, then touching your mouth. It’s also contracted through direct contact with someone who has it or through sharing their food or eating utensils, or drinking from the same cup.

How can I reduce my risk of contracting norovirus?

Good hand hygiene is vital. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water – and dry them well with a clean towel. This is essential after going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food. Alcohol hand gels don’t kill norovirus. 

Anything else I can do?

Where possible, avoid contact with someone who has recently had vomiting or diarrhoea. People may be contagious from the moment they feel ill to at least three days after recovery. Sometimes they can be contagious for up to two weeks after recovery.

What’s the treatment for norovirus?

It’s best to rest and let the illness run its course. Prevent dehydration by drinking lots and try to minimise contact with others until 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. 

For more on avoiding infections, see here.

24/7 GP support

Remember, if you’re a Benenden Health member, you have access to a GP appointment at your convenience – and you can call our GP 24/7 service to ask for help and advice for yourself or on behalf of your immediate family (whether they are Benenden Health members or not).

GPs can also prescribe some medications over the telephone. Please note these are private prescriptions and separate charges apply.