Ask Dr. Nandi: The symptoms of norovirus and how to prevent its spread

Posted at 3:22 PM, Dec 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-11 17:20:03-05

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, a Dearborn Heights school closed last Friday due to a stomach virus affecting around 100 students and one staff member. 

Pardee Elementary School reopened Monday after a deep cleaning of the building.

The school is in District 7, and they’re working with the Wayne County Public Division to figure out what specific illness caused this outbreak.

But it is most likely gastroenteritis - which is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines. It can be caused by many different viruses, however, norovirus is the most common. And it’s highly contagious.

Now, when you have norovirus, you can feel extremely ill. This infectious bug can cause all kinds of unpleasant symptoms, like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

You can also develop a fever, headache and body aches. Unfortunately, when you’re sick with norovirus, you can vomit or have diarrhea several times a day. The good news is that symptoms of norovirus typically last one to three days for most people, and you can go back to work or school once you've been without symptoms for 48 hours.
An infected person could shed the virus for two weeks or longer. But you're most likely to pass it on when you're showing symptoms and during the initial days after you start feeling better.

Now, what I’d like parents to be aware of is the potential for complications. Because norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea, it can lead to dehydration. This can be serious for young children, as well as older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.

In the US, norovirus results in 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths annually, primarily affecting young kids and the elderly.

So, contact your doctor or seek medical care if your child or a loved one shows:

  • Signs of dehydration like a dry mouth, few tears when crying, or urinates less than three times a day
  • Develops a high fever
  • Experiences ongoing diarrhea or vomiting after a few days.
  • Vomits blood or has bloody diarrhea or severe stomach pain.

Despite its contagious nature, there are ways to help prevent its spread. Here are some tips:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces using bleach.
  • Wash dirty laundry in hot water.
  • If you're sick, avoid preparing or serving food to others.
  • Handle vomit and feces carefully—use disposable gloves and towels.

With the holidays approaching and more families gathering, it's crucial to be aware of this virus and its potential serious impact on certain individuals.